United States jobless rate at lowest since 1969

"The weaker gain in payrolls in September may partly reflect some hit from Hurricane Florence", said Michael Pearce, senior US economist at Capital Economics in NY.

The economy added 134,000 jobs in September while previous estimates were revised up from 147,000 to 165,000 for July and from 201,000 to 270,000 for August, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported on October 5.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 185,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate falling one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.8%.

However, the report also stated that 134,000 jobs were created in the month of September.

The smaller survey of households from which the jobless rate is derived regards persons as employed regardless of whether they missed work during the reference week and were unpaid as result.

Meanwhile, record imports drove the U.S. trade deficit up for the third straight month in August.

The Fed's rate increases might be starting to bite. Data-collection rates were within normal ranges for both surveys. In 2018 so far, manufacturing has added 278,000 jobs.

Hurricane Florence struck North and SC in the middle of September and closed thousands of businesses. It isn't clear, however, that economic data will have much effect at the polls.

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its jobs report for September. Job growth was a bit softer in September, but some of that was from Hurricane Florence, and it should bounce back through the rest of 2018 and into 2019. That's the result of higher hourly wages and hours worked.

Other reports indicate the weather volatility is fading.

The last time the USA jobless rate was so low preceded more than a decade of economic pain tied to rising price pressures and efforts to rein them in. Smoothing out the revisions and monthly perturbations, the three-month average payroll gain is a sturdy 190,000, while the 12-month average increase is 211,000.

Hiring data may show storm- related swings for October too, economists said.

Job gains were noted in healthcare, up 26,000, transportation and warehousing, up 24,000, and construction, up 23,000. That's consistent with other reports showing strength in such activity. But retailers cut 20,000 jobs.

Hurricane Florence may have caused some distortions. Overall government payrolls increased by 13 000. On average, businesses added almost 200,000 jobs per month this year - well above the number needed to keep up with a growing population. A total of 270,000 jobs were gained in August, up from 201,000.

Another number that provides some insight is weekly wages. The average workweek was unchanged at 34.5 hours in September.

And many analysts see the unemployment rate continuing to decline this year, ramping up pressure on wages and prices.

By almost any measure, today's labor market is the strongest since the dot-com boom of the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Some economists believed Hurricane Florence also may have dampened payroll gains last month. At the same time, some measures showed the labor market may still have some room for further improvement.

The unemployment rate for Hispanics fell to 4.5 per cent and for women, it fell to 3.6 per cent.

The increase of part-time rather than full-time workers could be keeping the wages down. The employment- population ratio, another broad measure of labour-market health that central bankers like to watch, rose to 60.4% from 60.3%.

Vanessa Coleman

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