The U.S. labor market continues to make progress and once again shows, without a shadow of a doubt, that the U.S. economy is not in recession. Including upward revisions for August and September, nonfarm payrolls increased 182,000, almost doubling the consensus expected gain of 95,000. Civilian employment, an alternative measure of jobs that factors in small business start-ups, increased 277,000. This gain helped push down the unemployment rate to 9 percent.
A year ago the unemployment rate was 9.7 percent. During this time, nonfarm jobs have grown at an average monthly rate of 152,000 while civilian employment has grown at a rate of 140,000 per month. In other words, we don’t need 150,000 jobs per month just to keep the unemployment rate steady. Because of the aging of the labor force, 150,000 jobs per month is more than enough to push down the jobless rate.
Very quietly, without fanfare, private-sector payrolls have grown by 1.8 million in the past year, while the work week has lengthened and hourly cash wages are up 1.8 percent. Total hours worked are up 1.7 percent in the past year. A 9 percent unemployment rate means the labor market is still far from operating at its full potential, but it is moving in the right direction as are other data. October chain store sales were up 3.7 percent versus a year ago, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. This includes luxury department store sales (up 4.5 percent) and wholesale clubs, excluding fuel (up 7 percent). Meanwhile, compared to a year ago, core railcar loadings are up 5.8 percent, steel production is up 10.3 percent, and hotel occupancy rates are up 6.8 percent.
Again, there are no signs of recession. Instead, plenty of signs of continued growth.