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Robust US hiring underscores economy’s growing momentum

Friday, December 8, 2017

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added a substantial 228,000 jobs in November, a sign of the job market’s enduring strength in the economy’s ninth year of expansion, and the unemployment rate held at a 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

Friday’s jobs report from the government made clear that the U.S. economy is on firm footing and is likely benefiting from more resilient global growth, with all major economies across the world expanding in tandem for the first time in a decade.

Over the past six months, U.S. economic growth has exceeded an annual rate of 3 percent, the first time that’s happened since 2014. Consumer confidence has reached its highest level since 2000. And employers have added jobs for 86 straight months, a record streak.

“It’s a surprisingly strong report given the age of the recovery,” said Jed Kolko, chief economist at the job listing website Indeed. “After 86 months, we’re still seeing strong payroll gains.”

In many cases, in fact, employers say they’re struggling to find enough qualified workers to hire. Still, solid hiring and a low unemployment rate have yet to accelerate wages, which rose 2.5 percent in November compared with a year earlier. The last time unemployment was this low, average wages were growing at a 4 percent annual rate.

The November jobs data make it a near-certainty that the Federal Reserve will raise short-term interest rates for the third time this year when it meets next week, economists said.

Last month, job growth was widespread and particularly strong in manufacturing, which added 31,000 jobs, and in construction, which added 24,000. The construction job gains might have reflected, in part, renovation and repair work in such hurricane-ravaged states as Texas and Florida.

In November, retailers added nearly 19,000 jobs, a sign that physical stores are hiring for the holiday shopping season even in the face of brutal competition from e-commerce companies. Transportation and warehousing companies, which are benefiting from the e-commerce boom, added 10,500.

Hiring has slowed slightly since last year, which is typical when unemployment falls to low levels. Employers have added an average of 174,000 a month this year, a bit below last year’s monthly average of 187,000.