For the second consecutive month, the U.S. posted strong employment gains in November, adding 211,000 workers to payrolls and exceeding the forecasts of labor economists by more than 11,000 new jobs. Unemployment was unchanged at 5 percent.
The report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, released in Washington this morning, all but guarantees the Federal Reserve will increase interest rates when it meets later this month. The Fed postponed action after August and September jobs numbers came in far below expectations. But this week, Fed Chair Janet Yellen said raising rates “is a day that I expect we all are looking forward to.”
The strong labor report, showing private employers accounted for 197,000 of the new jobs, also adjusted upward by a combined 35,000 previous counts for September and October.
Construction hiring was especially strong, adding 46,000 new jobs. Most of those came from hiring by specialty trade contractors, where payrolls grew by 35,000 workers amidst strong demand in residential building.
Healthcare and the hospitality industry also saw strong hiring, adding a combined 62,800 jobs. Most of the new hospitality jobs (31,500) came from hiring by restaurants and bars.
However, the report did have some surprises. The staffing industry lost 12,400 jobs in November, a time of the year when businesses typically add temporary workers. It’s the first decline posted in November since 2008 and the largest monthly reduction this year. In the same month last year, staffing added 30,800 workers.
Clothing and clothing accessories stores, which typically see a big uptick in sales at this time of year, cut 14,200 workers. The retail sector overall, though, added 30,200, with general merchandise stores and motor vehicles parts and sales accounting for more than half the increase.
The film and recording industry cut 13,400 jobs.
Not unexpected was the 11,400 decline in jobs in mining, due to cutbacks in the petroleum industry because of declining oil prices worldwide.
Other sectors gaining were:
- Finance and insurance +11,000;
- Professional and technical services +28,400, a sector that includes accounting and bookkeeping +11,100;
- Government added 14,000 jobs, with hiring by states and cities accounting for just over half the total.
Unemployment held steady at 5 percent, even as nearly a quarter million sidelined workers rentered the workforce, pushing up the labor force participation rate slightly to 62.5 percent. For most of the last several years, people have been dropping out of the labor force either because of retirement, disability, or an inability to find work. People not looking for work are not counted as unemployed.
The government also reported that average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 4 cents to $25.25, following a 9-cent gain in October. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.3 percent.