Unemployment stays at 3.7% as businesses add 155K jobs in November

Unemployment remains at 49-year low

Businesses added fewer jobs than expected in November, with 155,000 new payroll figures, the Labor Department reported on Friday. Though it's a slower pace of job growth than most economists had predicted, it shows the economy maintaining steady growth despite recent painful flailing in the stock market.  

The unemployment rate stayed at 3.7 percent, a 49-month low. Unemployment rates dropped sharply for African-Americans, Asian-Americans and workers with only a high school diploma or less. Rates for other major groups of workers stayed unchanged.

Average hourly earnings for all workers grew 3.1 percent since this time last year, the same pace as in the previous month and the fastest rate of wage growth since 2009. Average hourly earnings for Americans are now at $27.35 an hour. 

After the tepid pace of wage growth seen earlier in the recovery, the higher wage figure is welcome news for workers, even as it causes some economists to worry about inflation. "With core inflation below 2 percent, wages would have to increase a lot to have any effect on inflation—according to our calculations, even a big wage jump isn't really going to affect inflation that much," said Robert Frick, corporate economist with Navy Federal Credit Union. "We shouldn't be afraid of higher wages. What's an economy for if it can't be for people making more money?"

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Some 2.3 million jobs have been created so far this year—the most in a year since 2015. This year has been particularly strong for goods-producing sectors, such as manufacturing and construction. These jobs tend to pay better than many service-sector jobs, but they also are more susceptible to trade shocks, such as the latest U.S.-China tariffs tussle.

"If the trade situation goes on for long enough, you could start seeing some of the job growth in those sectors be impacted," Martha Gimbel, director of economic research of job website Indeed.com, told MoneyWatch this week.

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