November jobs report shows businesses added strong 228K jobs

Last Updated Dec 8, 2017 3:39 PM EST

Businesses hired at a brisk pace in November, adding 228,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported Friday. It's a sign of the economy's continued strength in its eighth year of expansion. The unemployment rate was unchanged, at 4.1 percent. 

Some 46,000 jobs were added in the professional and business services sector, and manufacturing was surprisingly strong, producing 31,000 new jobs. Health care added 30,000 jobs, on par with its monthly average this year.

The year has seen an average of 174,000 new jobs created every month, down from 187,000 the year before.

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Hourly earnings grew 2.5 percent year-over-year, a slightly faster pace than in prior months but still more slowly than would be typical during an economic expansion at this stage. The last time unemployment was this low, wages were rising at a 4 percent rate. 

"Given that the unemployment rate is 4.1 percent and the expansion is more than eight years old, it's disappointing that wage growth isn't stronger," said Gus Faucher, chief economist with PNC Financial Services Group, in a note.

One reason could be that labor turnover is lower than it's been in the past--muting the effects of high employment. 

"Though we've been getting people into jobs, once they get here, there's not moving around as much," said Cathy Barrera, chief economist at ZipRecruiter. "The issue is, you really need competition over talent to drive wages up."

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Other figures suggest workers are still in demand, said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide. "Increases in temporary workers rose to the highest level of the year, while average weekly hours worked rose to 34.5 – both suggesting that the demand for workers continues to rise," he said in a statement. 

The economy is expanding at a healthy pace, and in many cases employers are scrambling to hire enough qualified workers. Over the past six months, growth has exceeded an annual rate of 3 percent, the first time that's happened since 2014. Consumer confidence has reached its highest level since 2000.

The White House took credit for the strong figures and promised more boom times ahead, saying "President Trump's bold economic vision continues to pay off."

"With tax reform moving quickly through Congress, confidence in the strength of our economy remains high and families around the country are reaping the benefits," said Press Secretary Sarah Sanders in a statement. "As we continue to unleash the American economy from unnecessary regulation and taxes, we look forward to seeing more reports like this, showing a healthy and thriving jobs market for the American people." 

How much influence the president really has on the economy is a matter of debate. While the prospect of corporate and individual tax cuts has bolstered stock prices, the broader economic picture depends much more on factors including Federal Reserve policy and the global economy than by the occupant of the White House.   

November's solid job figures keeps the Federal Reserve on track to raise its benchmark interest rate at its policy meeting next week. The central bank is widely expected to continue raising short-term rates despite inflation remaining below its 2 percent target.

"Given the potential impacts of the tax bill and the already established momentum of the economy, accelerating in recent months, there may well be a price to be paid in the form of rising interest rates at the hand of the Federal Reserve," said Mark Hamrick, senior economist at Bankrate, in a note. "The central bank has been eager to continue along the path of normalization and the case is made all the more pressing with the rise in stock and home prices."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.