Unemployment Rate Holds Steady, Hourly Earnings Rise, and Analysts Shake Their Heads

While many other economic indicators continue to show signs of a slowing economy, the latest report on U.S. employment has provided little indication that the tight labor market is easing. The unemployment rate for October remained at 3.9%, a figure achieved in September and for only the second time in 30 years,

While many other economic indicators continue to show signs of a slowing economy, the latest report on U.S. employment has provided little indication that the tight labor market is easing. The unemployment rate for October remained at 3.9%, a figure achieved in September and for only the second time in 30 years, while average hourly earnings exceeded analysts expectations with a 0.4% increase. 

Total nonfarm payroll increased by 137,000 in October, according to the Labor Department's October 2000 Employment Report, keeping the average monthly gain for nonfarm payroll for the year up to 195,000. A deeper look shows:

  • Construction employment rose 34,000, a second consecutive strong gain after little or no gains during the summer. 
  • Little change occurred in retail trade and services.
  • New jobs in air transportation and communications helped grow employment in transportation and public utilities by 23,000.

The manufacturing industry saw no change in October employment, following a combined loss of over 180,000 jobs in August and September. Some of the highlights and lowlights are below.

  • Electronic components continued its strong growth with 7,000 new jobs.
  • Food and kindred products rebounded from two down months with a gain in October.
  • Lumber, apparel, and textiles all incurred losses.
  • A slight job loss in motor vehicle employment helped to push its total job loss since July to 46,000.

At a Glance: Hours and Earnings

  • The manufacturing workweek rose 0.1 hour to 41.3 hours, while overtime remained at 4.4 hours.
  • Average hourly earnings rose 6 cents to $13.89, helping to raise earnings 13 cents in the last three months.
  • Average weekly earnings increased by 0.1% to $476.43.
  • Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings and weekly earnings have increased by 3.8% and 3.2%, respectively.

The report on November employment will be released on December 8, 2000.

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