Job growth blew past expectations in October and year-over-year wage gains jumped past 3 percent for the first time since the Great Recession, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Nonfarm payrolls powered up by 250,000 for the month, well ahead of Refinitiv estimates of 190,000. The unemployment rate stayed at 3.7 percent, the lowest since December 1969.
“The job market is doing remarkably well, particularly this late in the expansion,” said Jim Baird, partner and chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors. “This report adds yet another data point to a narrative that has been positive for the labor market this year. Little seems to stand in the way of the economy finishing 2018 out on solid footing.”
The ranks of the employed rose to a fresh record 156.6 million and the employment-to-population ratio increased to 60.6 percent, the highest level since December 2008, according to the department’s household survey. That headline jobless number stayed level even amid a two-tenths of a percentage point rise in the labor force participation rate to 62.9 percent.
Those counted as outside the labor force tumbled by 487,000 to 95.9 million.
But the bigger story may be wage growth, which has been the missing piece of the economic recovery. Average hourly earnings increased by 5 cents an hour for the month and 83 cents year over year, representing a 3.1 percent gain. The annual increase in wages was the best since 2009.
That number is being watched closely by Federal Reserve, which has increased its benchmark interest rate three times this year and is on track for a fourth quarter-point hike in December. Higher wage growth feeds into the central bank’s desire to raise rates to keep inflation under control.