U.S. employers added a greater-than-expected 211,000 jobs in November, while the employment rate remained unchanged from the previous month at 5 percent, its lowest level since March 2008, the Labor Department said Friday. November’s gain follows the best job-creation month of the year in October, whose number was revised upward Friday, from 271,000 to 298,000.
November’s robust reading means a U.S. Federal Reserve rate hike later this month looks certain, said Steve Blitz, chief economist at New York-based ITG Investment Research Inc.
“There’s isn’t a mystery about the possible Fed hike anymore. It’s a done deal,” Blitz said. “You would need a number like 100,000 to 125,000 for the Fed to react at this point. August and September were down, but October pulled the moving average up again.”
Economists forecasted that Friday's report would show 200,000 more jobs were added last month and that the unemployment rate would hold steady at 5 percent, according to data firm FactSet.
The U.S. economy added 3.1 million jobs last year, or an average of about 258,000 a month, but with one month left in the year, the 2015 number is about 2.3 million -- about 210,000 per month. The U.S. needs to create an average of 200,000 jobs a month to meet the demands of the U.S. workforce.
But the labor force participation rate -- a measure of the number of people who are employed or are seeking employment – remains at a 38-year low. The figure ticked up only slightly, from 62.4 percent in October to 62.5 percent last month.
“We’ve been trying to figure out how much of the labor participation rate has to do with people entering retirement, but that doesn’t explain all of it,” said Tim Dreiling, senior portfolio manager for the Private Client Reserve at U.S. Bank. “It would be a good thing to see the unemployment rate begin to rise if it were in concert with more of these people finding work or starting to look for work.”
Average private sector hourly earnings increased by 4 cents to $25.25 after increasing in October by 9 cents. However, wages for nonsupervisory employees, workers who are managed by others, remained unchanged last month at $21.19.
“In November, less than 48 percent [of the jobs created] were what we would call 'low wage,' falling steadily from its recent high of 70 percent in August,” Blitz said in an email after the jobs numbers came out. “There still isn’t a wage inflation issue, but nevertheless the stage is clearly set for the Fed’s models to suggest one is coming – yet more reason to begin pushing policy rates higher.”
Retailers added 31,000 jobs last month amid the holiday shopping season, and they added 44,000 jobs in October. The mining sector continued to shed jobs -- 11,000 last month -- amid a global rout in commodities.