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The job market is showing surprising strength heading into the end of the year

The economy added 266,000 jobs in November

Photo (c) Pixsooz - Getty Images
Hiring has exceeded expectations for another month, further diminishing concerns that a recession could be right around the corner.

The Labor Department reports the economy added 266,000 jobs in November, well ahead of the consensus estimate of 187,000. The unemployment rate fell back to 3.5 percent, the lowest level in a half-century.

Employment numbers for September and October were both revised higher. That added 41,000 jobs to the two-month total.

As in most recent months, the biggest job gains occurred in health care and in professional and technical services. Even manufacturing employment showed a nice gain, thanks to the end of the United Auto Workers (UAW) strike.

Wages still rising

Workers’ wages continued to tick higher last month. Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by seven cents to $28.29. Wages have increased at a rate of 3.1 percent over the last 12 months.

With one more month to go in 2019, U.S. job growth has averaged 180,000 per month. Hiring has accelerated in the second half of the year at a time when some economists were warning of an economic slowdown caused by the trade war with China.

In November, people seeking jobs in health care had the most success. Health care added 45,000 jobs last month. Over the last 12 months, health care hiring has added 414,000 jobs. Hiring in professional and technical services increased by 31,000 in November. That’s up from the monthly average of 23,000 jobs created over the last 12 months.

Manufacturing plays catch-up

Manufacturing jobs surged by 54,000 jobs last month, but most of that was catch-up. Manufacturing employment plunged by 43,000 in October as many people were idled by strikes. With those strikes over, those workers returned to their jobs last month.

Leisure and hospitality, transportation and warehousing, and financial services all continued their upward trend in employment last month.

Hiring among retailers was essentially flat in November, suggesting some retailers bucked the historical pattern of bringing on temporary help for the holidays.

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