Strong Job Growth in October Pushes Unemployment Rate Down to 5.0 Percent

November 06, 2015

The Labor Department reported the economy added 271,000 jobs in October. With slight upward revisions to the prior two months data, this brought the three month average to 187,000. This job growth was sufficient to push the unemployment rate down slightly to 5.0 percent. While the employment to population ratio edged up slightly to 59.3 percent, it is still below the 59.4 percent high for the recovery. The labor force participation rate is actually down 0.4 percentage points from its year-ago level.

The job growth was led by health care (44,900), retail (43,800), restaurants (42,000), construction (31,000), and temporary help (24,500). Average weekly hours was unchanged at 34.5, although it edged down by 0.1 percentage points for production workers. The average hourly wage jumped 9 cents, but this was primarily sampling error. The average hourly wage was reported as rising just 1 cent last month. Over the last three months, wages have risen at a 2.70 percent annual rate, compared to a 2.48 percent rate over the last year.

Other data in the household survey was mixed. On the positive side, the number of people working part-time for economic reasons fell sharply in October, following a sharp reported drop in September. It now stands at 1,245,000, below its year-ago level. By contrast, the number choosing to work part-time is up by 380,000, a predictable result of the Affordable Care Act. On the down side, the percentage of unemployment due to people voluntarily quitting their jobs remained at recession levels at 9.9 percent.

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