November Jobs Report Is Better Than It Sounded

All in all, the November jobs report was better than it seemed to be on the surface. While job creation came up short of expectations, that may be more a function on not enough qualified candidates rather than not enough jobs. And, wage growth was firmer than implied when looking at the data from the less-touted (but arguably more meaningful) vantage point.

Last month, the U.S. added 155,000 new jobs versus expectations of 190,000. That's the second lowest payroll growth figure in a year, with September's 119,000 being the lowest, and certainly not enough progress to move the needle on the unemployment rate, which still stands at 3.7%. But, the United States is at or near maximum employment as-is. It's going to be difficult to make progress on these fronts. [The graphic below only shows job growth through October, which rolled in at 250,000.]

Far more telling - as has been the case for a while - is the data on other fronts, most of which shows the quality of jobs (as measured by pay) and the number of people re-joining the workforce is improving.

As of the end of the month, 156.8 million people in the U.S. held jobs... another record-breaking. Conversely, the number of officially unemployed people fell to a multi-year low of 6.0 million. Unemployed people without jobs but looking for a job grew again, reaching 5.4 million to extend an uptrend since early 2018. Take that last data nugget with a grain of salt, however. It's easy to say you're in search of a job, even when you truly aren't.

The employment/population ratio held steady at 60.6%, also extending a growth trend in place since 2012. It's still well below 2006's peak levels, but in the shadow of baby boomers' en-masse retirements, it may never reach that level again. The labor force participation rate remains just below 63% and suspiciously isn't rising. It arguably should be. [The labor force participation rate on the graphic below is only updated through October.]

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