The last jobs report before the election is in -- and it's pretty darn good.
The economy added 161,000 jobs in October and the unemployment rate fell to 4.9%, the Labor Department said Friday.
But the details get better: A big jump in wages brought year-over-year gains to a very healthy 2.8%, and upward revisions of 44,000 to the hiring pace of the prior two months more than make up for an initial estimate of October hiring that falls about 14,000 short of the median forecast of economists surveyed by Dow Jones & Co.
While it may be too late for the news to make much difference to Tuesday's presidential election, the news can be seen as a sharp rebuke to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump's attempt to paint the economy as in dire shape.
Also, it confirms the view that Chair Janet Yellen's Federal Reserve is likely to raise the target range for short-term interest rates next month, as wage gains strengthen the argument that inflation will move up to the central bank's 2% target sometime next year.
"The Fed will see this as a strong sign that the we are at full employment. It certainly argues for a near-term rate hike," Tom Graff, a bond-fund manager and columnist for our premium site Real Money, wrote in an analysis of Friday's numbers.
Joel Naroff, president of Naroff Economic Advisors said the fact that "the tightening job market is finally showing up in higher wages ... should make Janet Yellen and lots of workers happy."
Indeed, the job market is moving close to targets on a number of the less-traditional job measures Yellen has focused on, and even some that Trump has tried to highlight in making the case that the economy is worse than it looks.
The so-called "real unemployment rate," which includes both the actual reported rate and the number of workers who settle for part-time jobs because they can't find full time work, fell 0.2 percentage points to 9.5%. That's the lowest since May 2008 and within a half-point of the level Moody's Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi has estimated is a working estimate of full employment. The rate, known formally as the U-6 rate, peaked after the recession at 17.1%.
The number of jobs available in the economy has also reached 5.4 million, higher than any time during the 2002-2007 expansion, leading economists to speculate that hiring has only decelerated this year because it's harder to find workers in a tighter market.
"The American job machine continues to hum along," Zandi said. "Job growth remains solid, and while growth has slowed in recent months, this is largely because the economy is near full employment and open job positions are going unfilled. All signs point to continued strong job gains going forward. This is the best job market in a decade.
But there's the bad side: Regions Financial Chief Economist Richard Moody described the report as "mixed."
"Almost all of the upward revisions for the past two months came from a spike in government employment in August," Moody said in an email. "Manufacturing employment declined again (by 9,000 jobs). Part-time for economic reasons did not budge. The U-6 fell due to fewer unemployed people and a slight decline in the number of people who are marginally attached to the work force."
Indeed, Trump's campaign described the report as "disastrous," noting the 487,000 workers not looking for jobs because they believed none were available for them.
Among businesses, manufacturers such as General Electric (GE) and Boeing (BA) were hurt by the slowdown in oil drilling as well as some export weakness. Retailers including Wal-Mart (WMT) eliminated 1,100 jobs, as electronics stores such as Best Buy (BBY) and clothing retailers looked especially weak.
But health-care companies added 30,500, as part of broader strength in services. Construction companies added 11,000 jobs and home-builders added 2,600.
Bottom line: This solid report bolsters the case for a rate hike in December, without pointing to any unexpected overheating that would make the Fed move faster than markets expect. Any impact on the election will be muted, but is likely to favor Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.