State of the Labor Market

October 2019 Jobs Report: Slowing, but Still Growing

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The US economy added 128,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate is at 3.6%, up from 3.5% in September.

The labor market is uninterested in your pessimism. Yes, the General Motors strike had an effect, but not as much as expected. The resilience of job growth continues, though there are still underlying signs of weakness in the labor market.

The slowdown in jobs growth is more in keeping with a slow glide down than a sharp drop. Average employment gains through October are down from last year, which is still the weakest through 2011. The three-month moving average of private employment growth has been steadily increasing over the last few months. The share of prime-age workers hit a new high for this recovery, as solid job gains continue to pull workers into employment.

Even so, there is room for improvement. Employers may be adding jobs at a healthy clip, but workers aren’t seeing a pickup in wage growth. Rates of involuntary part-time work and long-term unemployment did not decline in October, which means some job seekers aren’t benefiting from this tight labor market.

The good and the bad news is that this labor market is still what we thought it was: Slowing, but growing steadily, providing benefits for more workers, but not all.

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