State of the Labor Market

October Jobs Report: The Job Gains Streak Is Back, but Wages Miss

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The streak is back. With the upward revision of September payrolls into positive territory, October’s job gain of 261k is the 85th straight month of growth. Last month’s hurricane effects were largely reversed: leisure and hospitality jobs rebounded, and job growth was fastest among lower-wage industries. For the year, job growth has averaged 169k per month, below the 2016 average but still more than enough to keep pushing unemployment down.

Yet wage growth slid back. Even after adjusting for the jump in low-wage jobs, wage growth is running at its lowest level in a couple of years — and only a hair above the inflation rate. That means almost no real wage gains for workers. With the swings from the hurricanes now largely behind us, the longer-term challenge of wage growth returns to the foreground.

The numbers show:

  • A hurricane rebound: weather-sensitive sectors had their biggest growth of the year in October, while non-sensitive sectors were strong and stable.

  • There was a big rebound in leisure and hospitality jobs in October, reversing a September drop.

  • However, even after adjusting for the rebound in low-wage employment in October, wage growth slowed.

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