WASHINGTON • Hiring in the United States jumped last month to its highest level since January as employers shrugged off global trade conflicts and added 266,000 jobs.
The unemployment rate declined to 3.5 per cent from 3.6 per cent in October, matching a half-century low, the Labour Department reported yesterday. Wages rose a solid 3.1 per cent last month compared with a year earlier.
The healthy job growth runs against a widespread view that businesses are struggling to find workers with unemployment so low.
Persistent hiring should help keep consumers spending – a key engine of growth as businesses have cut their investment spending and exports have stalled.
Monthly job growth has accelerated, averaging 205,000 over the past three months, up from just 135,000 in July. Steady hiring has helped reassure consumers that the economy is expanding and their jobs and incomes remain secure, which, in turn, has fuelled spending.
Consumer spending has become an even more important driver of growth because the Trump administration’s trade conflicts have reduced exports and led many businesses to cut spending.
The holiday shopping season has begun later this year compared with previous years, a fact that some economists think might have delayed hiring by retailers and shipping companies last month.
Despite the trade tensions, most analysts remain hopeful about the US economy and the job market.
The US economy grew at a 2.1 per cent annual rate in the July-September quarter, and the annual pace is thought to be slowing to roughly 1.5 per cent to 2 per cent in the final three months of the year – sluggish but far from recessionary.