Monday Moneybeat: Unemployment numbers

MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming next on The World and Everything in It, the Monday Moneybeat.

MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: The government on Friday issued a jobs report for September with both good news and not-so-good.

On the good side: the headline unemployment rate fell from 3.7 percent to 3.5. It’s not been that low since December 1969. American employers added 136-thousand new jobs in September, and that’s in a job market that’s long been considered at full employment.

Now, when labor economists say “full employment,” that does NOT mean zero percent. Economists at the Federal Reserve consider a rate between 3.75 percent and 4.5 percent normal. So September’s 3.5 percent is better than normal. 

It’s very good.

The September jobs report also included an update to July and August numbers. The initial reports were too low, and now the government says employers added 45,000 more jobs in those two months than first thought.

REICHARD Now, the not-so-good part: wages fell back a bit. If you compare September 2019 to September 2018, wages are just 2.9 percent better. At one point this year, wage growth year-on-year was near three-and-a-half percent.

And one more year-on-year comparison that is not favorable: Average job growth for 2018 was 223-thousand per month. This year, it’s down to 161,000 per month. That’s 28 percent fewer jobs added, and it’s more evidence that the economy is cooling off.

BASHAM: Even still, investors were looking for good news and they took that jobs report exactly that way. On Friday, when the report came out, all the major stock indexes posted gains. The Standard & Poor’s 500 had its best single day in seven weeks. It wasn’t enough to erase losses Wednesday and Thursday. On the week, three of the four major indexes lost ground overall. The Nasdaq enjoyed a winning week.

REICHARD: Federal Reserve board chairman Jay Powell observed that the U.S. economy continues to be in a good place. In brief remarks, the head of the central bank said it’s his job to “keep it [in its good place] as long as possible.” He didn’t tip his hand whether that means the Fed will decrease interest rates for a third time this year when the bankers meet on October 29th to set policy.

And that is today’s Monday Moneybeat.

(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) In this Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019, photo, Daisy Ronco waits in line to apply for a job with Marshalls during a job fair at Dolphin Mall in Miami.

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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