Job Market Looks Healthy Despite Other Signs Of Trouble For The Economy

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The jobs report due Friday morning is expected to show that the U.S. labor market remains healthy, but the monthly release comes at a precarious time for the economy.

Stock markets have seen wild swings this week over U.S.-China trade tensions, and there are some signs in the bond market that may be signaling a recession. The Dow Jones Industrial Average slid more than 750 points Thursday before recovering to close down 79 points. On Tuesday, the Dow plunged 799 points.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report is also the last look at key labor market data that Federal Reserve policymakers will have before they meet Dec. 18-19. At that meeting, the Fed is widely expected to raise interest rates by a quarter percentage point. It would be the fourth such increase in 2018 and the ninth hike in the past 3 years.

Private analysts forecast that the U.S. unemployment rate remained at a nearly 50-year low of 3.7 percent in November and that the economy added 190,000 jobs. That's below October's gain of 250,000 jobs and the monthly average of 218,000 jobs created in the past 3 months.

The jobless rate has been below 4 percent since July.

Analysts are also watching for signs that wage growth is continuing to pick up. In October, average earnings climbed to $27.30 an hour — 3.1 percent above a year earlier and the largest annual increase since 2009.

This week, the Fed found a mixed picture in its latest survey of economic conditions around the country.

It said most Fed districts reported that companies "remained positive; however, optimism has waned in some as contacts cited increased uncertainty from impacts of tariffs, rising interest rates, and labor market constraints." Many employers are continuing to struggle to find qualified workers, the Fed said.

The housing market has also been softening, another development that could weaken the overall economy. Sales of new single-family homes fell 8.9 percent in October to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 544,000 — the lowest level in more than 2 1/2 years.

Announcements in recent weeks offer a mixed outlook for the job market heading into 2019.

Amazon said it will start hiring for its new headquarters in Northern Virginia and New York City, creating a combined 50,000 jobs in coming years. But General Motors plans to lay off thousands of workers at several plants in the U.S. and Canada as it shifts toward electric and autonomous vehicles.

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