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US job creation remains solid as election nears
[WASHINGTON] A final glimpse of the US economy before next week's bitterly-fought presidential election delivered a picture of relative health Friday, with job creation up and unemployment falling.
The jobs report for October showed the United States adding a solid 161,000 new positions while the jobless rate fell to 4.9 per cent, according to Labor Department figures.
The results appeared unlikely to lift the fortunes of either Democrat Hillary Clinton or Republican Donald Trump, who both campaigned on Friday in the battleground states where unemployment is below the national average.
Appearing in New Hampshire, Mr Trump disputed the accuracy of the results and called them "an absolute disaster." "People are stopping, they're not looking for work anymore because they can't get a job," he said.
At a rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Mrs Clinton took a diametrically opposed view.
"We got some good news this morning. Our economy created 161,000 jobs last month. That is 73 straight months of job growth," she told supporters.
Analysts agreed with Mrs Clinton's view and said the jobs report showed steady momentum in the world's largest economy, with the Labor Department revising upward its job creation numbers for August and September by a total of 44,000 positions, taking the average for the past three months to a strong 176,000 new jobs.
Wages also saw their strongest gain in seven years, as average hourly earnings rose 2.8 per cent year-on-year to US$25.92.
Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said he expected gains in average hourly earnings to continue into 2017.
"With the labour market very tight, employers will struggle to resist," he said in a client note.
The unemployment rate was little-changed from prior months, declining a tenth of a point to return to the level recorded between June and August. However, the jobless rate among Hispanics fell sharply to 5.7 per cent from 6.4 per cent.
Despite steady job creation, the recovery has not eased the persistent economic anxieties of many in the electorate.
Labour force participation was little changed in October at 62.8 per cent and the number of long-term unemployed was steady at 2.0 million people, about a quarter of total unemployment.
The White House touted the jobs data, citing what it called "the longest streak of total job growth on record," but offered the customary acknowledgement that the battle was not yet won.
"US businesses have now added 15.5 million jobs since early 2010," Jason Furman, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors, said in a statement. "Nevertheless, more work remains to continue to boost wage growth and to ensure that the benefits of the recovery are broadly shared."
Business services and healthcare saw strong gains last month, adding 43,000 and 31,000 positions respectively, with healthcare having grown by more than 400,000 positions over the previous 12 months.
Policymakers at the US Federal Reserve have so far held off raising US interest rates during 2016, hoping to avoid interrupting a fragile recovery, a position they reaffirmed this week. However, they have signaled their intention to increase rates as soon as December.
Chris Williamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said the new jobs data made a December rate increase more likely, and initial estimates for US growth in the third quarter show the economy had expanded by 2.9 per cent, a sign of regained momentum.
"It seems that the only remaining obstacle to the Fed hiking in December would be a significant adverse financial market reaction to the US presidential election," Mr Williamson said in a note to clients.
The comparatively good jobs report did little to calm investor worries Friday, with the S&P 500 closing down for the ninth straight day in a row and all major US equities markets finishing lower.