The labor market didn’t change much in October, according to today’s Bureau of Labor Statistics employment report.
Unemployment and job creation have remained steady over 2016. Those trends continued last month.
The household survey reported that unemployment fell by 0.1 percentage points, to 5.0 percent. However, this drop primarily occurred because over 400,000 Americans left the labor force. (Americans who aren’t looking for work do not count as unemployed.)
Consequently, labor force participation also dropped 0.1 percentage points, to 62.8 percent.
This small movement is almost certainly statistical noise. In September, unemployment and labor force participation rose slightly. The October numbers reversed those shifts, bringing both the unemployment rate and labor force participation rate back to their August level.
The labor market has not changed much over the past several months.
The payroll survey tells a similar story. It found that employers created 161,000 net new jobs in October—close to the average rate of job growth over 2016.
The payroll survey found all net job creation occurred in the service sector, primarily professional and business services (plus 43,000), health care (plus 31,000), and government (plus 19,000). In October, the goods producing sector added no net jobs.
The hourly earnings figures of the payroll survey were the best news in the jobs report. Average earnings rose 10 cents in October, to $25.92 an hour. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have risen 2.8 percent—considerably faster than inflation (approximately 1 percent). Workers’ earnings have improved measurably over the past year.
Nonetheless, some of the wounds from the recession have yet to heal. The average unemployed American has been without work for over six months (27.2 weeks).
That figure has scarcely changed over the past year. While more Americans have jobs, many without them still find getting work very difficult.
The October jobs report shows no sign of another recession. But it also shows little sign of an accelerating recovery, either.