State of the Labor Market

November 2019 Jobs Report: Consistent and Steady Growth

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The US economy added 266,000 jobs last month, and the unemployment rate is at 3.5%, slightly down from 3.6% in October.

Looking at the high number of jobs that were added in November, you might forget that the story for most of this year was that the economy was slowing down. The slowdown did happen, but we can move into 2020 with a bit more optimism.

The labor market keeps on consistently and steadily adding jobs. Employment growth through 2019 has averaged at 180,000 new jobs per month through November, which is the same as 2017. This is more of a return to a previous trend than the beginning of a new downward trend. Employment growth in the goods sector also bounced back, but that’s very likely due to striking GM employees returning to work.

Another sign of progress is that the share of workers in the prime working years (ages 25 to 54) with a job held steady from last month and is at a level we have not seen since before the Great Recession. However, this prime-age employment rate hasn’t grown much in 2019. That could be responsible for the disappointing stagnation in wage growth this year.

Over ten years since the official end of the Great Recession, the labor market continues to add more jobs than needed to keep up with population growth and the growth of the labor force. As we start the new year, maybe our resolution should be to not count out this labor market.

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