The pace of job growth slowed markedly in November from the prior month, in a troubling sign for retailers ahead of the all-important holiday shopping season.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by just 112,000 in November, well below forecasts for 200,000 jobs to be created. The months of October and September were also revised lower by a combined 54,000 but the unemployment rate ticked down to 5.4%.
"October now clearly stands as an outlier, partly thanks to the hurricane effect and partly, we think, to plain old sampling error," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at High Frequency Economics.
The Labor Department originally reported that 337,000 jobs were added in October, with a large portion coming from the construction sector after four hurricanes swept through the southern U.S.. On Friday, it revised down that amount to 303,000.The details of November's report were also disappointing. Average hourly earnings rose a meager 0.1% and the average workweek fell by a tenth of an hour to 33.7 hours. Total hours worked in the economy dropped by 0.2%. "The November numbers are in line with the message from the summer's drop in the help wanted index, which unfortunately points to another month or two of similar numbers," Shepherdson said. Although seasonal factors were "less friendly" this year than last, this was offset by a larger estimate for job creation by new businesses "so most of the damage is in the core numbers," he added. Peter Morici, a business professor at the University of Maryland, said declining auto sales, which account for 4% of the U.S. economy, are weighing down jobs creation in the vehicle assembly and autoparts sector. General Motors (GM) and Ford (F) both announced production cuts this week. Manufacturing firms lost 5,000 jobs in November, the third straight decline while construction added 11,000 jobs. The services sector added 104,000 jobs after 241,000 in October. Retail firms shed 16,000 jobs. Professional and business services added 28,000, including 9,000 in temporary help agencies. A separate survey of households showed employment up by 483,000 while unemployment fell by 45,000 to 8.027 million. Still, most economists believe the payroll survey is more reliable. Despite disappointing Wall Street, the latest employment data aren't likely to put the Federal Reserve on hold at the next meeting on Dec. 14. Most traders expect the central bank to raise interest rates for a fifth time this month. The 10-year Treasury note rallied on the news, while the dollar fell. The report had a mixed impact on stock futures, as blue chips lost early gains while techs remained sharply higher.