Job gains miss expectations, unemployment rate hits lowest since December 2000

Myles Udland
Markets Reporter

The October jobs report is out and it’s a slight miss.

The U.S. economy added 261,000 jobs in October while the unemployment rate fell again to 4.1%, according to the latest figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This is the lowest unemployment rate since December 2000.

Wall Street was looking for a big bounce back for the labor market in October after the Hurricane-impacted figures we saw in September. September’s numbers were also revised up to show gains of 18,000 after having been previously estimated to decline by 33,000.

Job gains in August were also revised higher, to 208,000 from 169,000, and average job gains are now at 162,000 over the last three months.

The unemployment rate is near its lowest level in 17 years. (Source: BLS)

Economists were looking for job gains of 313,000 in October with the unemployment rate set to hold at 4.2%, according to estimates from Bloomberg.

Wage gains in October were disappointing, flat over the prior month and 2.4% over the prior year. Wage gains have picked up in recent years but still been running somewhat below what economists would expect given the low level of unemployment.

Average hourly earnings were expected to rise 0.2% over the prior month in October with earnings forecasted to rise 2.7% over the prior year. Wages rose 0.5% monthly and 2.9% annually in September, though last month’s annual wage gains were revised down slightly to 2.8% in Friday’s report.

Volunteers at Phoenix Decorating work on an American flag that will be on a Tournament of Roses Parade float in Pasadena, California December 29, 2013. REUTERS/Jonathan Alcorn

Other numbers economists were looking at closely in the report were the underemployment rate, which captures those out of work as well as folks working part-time but who would like full-time work.

This rate fell to 7.9% in October, the lowest since December 2006, and President Donald Trump’s chief economic advisor Gary Cohn has said the administration is focused on getting this number down.

Economists have also been tracking the labor force participation rate, which has been in decline for over a decade but stabilized some in recent years. This rate fell in October to 62.7% after hitting a three-year high of 63.1% in September.

Big employment gains were expected for the sectors most directly impacted by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which include leisure & hospitality, construction, and mining.

Leisure & hospitality saw a notable rebound in October, gaining 106,000 jobs after losing 102,000 in September. Construction and mining, meanwhile, saw job trends about in-line with September.

Jed Kolko, chief economist at Indeed, said this week that backing out the impacts from these sectors would have yielded job gains of 68,000 in September while these sectors lost a combined 101,000 jobs during the month.

Leisure & hospitality jobs saw a huge rebound in October after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma held these figures down in September. (Source: BLS)

Myles Udland is a writer at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @MylesUdland

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