The October Employment Report

The October job market data were not far from expectations, consistent with a further tightening in labor market conditions. While the average hourly earnings figures can be quirky (the data are often revised in the following month), wage growth appears to be picking up. That should keep Fed policymakers on track to raise short-term interest rates in December.

Nonfarm payrolls rose by 161,000 in the initial estimate for October, a bit lower than expected, but previous figures were revised higher. While there is a fair amount of noise from month to month, the pace appears to have slowed this year. However, job growth remains relatively strong given the demographics (slower growth in the working-age population). Remember, we need a bit less than 100,000 jobs per month to remain consistent with population growth.

Nonfarm payrolls have now risen for 72 consecutive months, the longest string ever (the previous record was 48 months). Private-sector payrolls have risen by 15.5 million.

The unemployment rate edged down, partly reflecting a drop in labor force participation. Do not read much into that – it is consistent with the usual noise in the Household Survey. The employment/population rate also edged down, but the trend for the key age cohort, those aged 25-54, has continued to improve. As this key cohort moves up to better jobs, space will be created for teenagers and young adults to get experience (the typical late-cycle pattern in a job market recovery).