US job growth cools; unemployment rate drops to 3.7 percent

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With unemployment so low, companies are facing intense pressure to raise pay to land workers.

If the rate keeps dropping, it will heighten two concerns: Has the economy soaked up almost all the people who want or are able to work?

United States hiring cooled in September by more than forecast, wage gains eased slightly and the jobless rate fell to a 48-year low, illustrating a tight labour market as well as the impact of Hurricane Florence.

The U.S. unemployment rate is at a historic low. The U.S. central bank raised interest rates last week for the third time this year and removed the reference in its post-meeting statement to monetary policy remaining "accommodative".

Economists say there is no indication the labor market is expected to weaken anytime soon.

August's job gains were also revised significantly higher in Friday's report, with the BLS now estimating the economy created 270,000 jobs in August, 69,000 more than previously estimated. Smoothing out the revisions and monthly perturbations, the three-month average payroll gain is a sturdy 190,000, while the 12-month average increase is 211,000.

Still, if the prime-age workers increasingly enter the job market, their numbers could expand the workforce a bit and help accelerate economic growth.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 185,000 jobs in September and the unemployment rate falling one-tenth of a percentage point to 3.8%. "T$3 he official data only include people who were paid something - anything - in the survey period". If more people start looking - and don't immediately find a job - the government will count them as unemployed. The report said that average hourly wages increased by 8 cents to $27.24.

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Hourly pay edged up 0.3 percent for the month, and is 2.8 percent higher than the same month past year, a notch above inflation. "Wage growth, which picked up in the prior month, came in line with expectations with hourly earnings rising 0.3% on the month for an annual rate of 2.8%". As more slack is squeezed out of the labor market, economists expect annual wage growth to hit 3 percent.

The average workweek for all private employees was unchanged at 34.5 hours.

The escalating trade war between the U.S. and China does not appear to have affected hiring in factories.

In fact, the Fed's latest survey of national business conditions reflected concerns about labor shortages that are extending into non-skilled occupations as much as about tariffs.

Washington last month slapped tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese goods, with Beijing retaliating with duties on $60 billion worth of USA products.

A month ahead of hard-fought congressional elections, the result was sure to delight US President Donald Trump, who has eagerly taken credit for America's extended run of economic expansion even as his Republican party faces a possible rebuke from disenchanted voters.

The trilateral trade agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico was salvaged in an 11th-hour deal on Sunday.

Retailers had the worst month for hiring, as the sector lost 20,000 jobs.