The nation’s unemployment rate continued its downward drift last month, landing at a six-year low of 5.8 percent, as businesses created another 214,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported on Friday.
The new jobs came mostly in lower-wage industries like retail and restaurants, although some new jobs in health care, computer design, manufacturing and other higher-paying professions became open. Another 31,000 jobs also were created in August and September than previously reported by the department.
U.S. employers have now added at least 200,000 jobs a month for nine straight months, the longest such stretch of robust job-generation since 1995.
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The job growth provided an early start to the Christmas shopping season, which economists expect to be strong this year amid rising consumer confidence and falling gasoline prices. Retailers plans to hire thousands of temporary workers to handle the increased traffic in stores and on websites.
“Today’s employment report is an indication that we are on firmer turf,” said Stephen E. Schatz, director at the National Retail Federation. “The labor market is progressing steadily. … Broad-based employment growth is key to self-sustaining and self-reinforcing economic growth.”
Reflecting in part the low-wage mix of jobs created, average hourly wages remained subdued, showing an increase of only 3 cents during the month and maintaining their yearly 2 percent rate of increase. The average workweek ticked up by a 10th of an hour to 34.6 hours, however, enabling workers to take home more pay during the month.
“There is nothing not to like in this payrolls report,” said Justin Wolfers, economics professor at the University of Michigan. “Healthy jobs growth — better in the household survey — nice revisions, no inflationary pressure. … There’s still no evidence of emerging wage pressures as unemployment falls.”
The survey of households, which complements the department’s business survey, showed a surge in job growth of 683,000, as well as other signs of more robust growth such as the share of adults participating in the U.S. labor force ticked up to 62.8 percent from record lows earlier this year.
“Companies continued to take on staff in impressive numbers,” said Chris Williamson, economist at Markit. “The economy is enjoying another period of strong growth in the fourth quarter.”
‘However, lackluster wage growth takes some of the shine off the improvement in the employment situation, and also acts as a bar to raising interest rates,” he said.
“A key and probably essential ingredient to any tightening of monetary policy is the return of wage growth. With average hourly wage growth stuck at just 2 percent per annum in October, a rate it has been more or less steady at over the past five years, policymakers will generally be in no rush to raise interest rates.”