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October Jobs Report Shows Significant Growth In Wages


The government has released its last jobs report before Election Day. It shows the U.S. economy improved in October. As NPR's John Ydstie reports, it was strong wage growth that grabbed the spotlight.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Job growth was not quite as robust as economists had forecast, but 161,000 additional workers were added to payrolls last month and the unemployment rate dropped a tick to 4.9 percent. Not a spectacular report, but certainly positive, says Dan White, a senior economist at Moody's Analytics.

DAN WHITE: If you look at some of the details of the report, there are even more positives to be had, the biggest one of course being that we had a 0.4 percent increase in wages.

YDSTIE: That may not sound like much, but it's the latest solid reading in a trend toward higher wages that's been building in recent months. In fact, during the last 12 months, wages have risen 2.8 percent. That's the best showing since the Great Recession. And if job gains continue at this pace, upward pressure on wages should continue. Diane Swonk, CEO of DS Economics, says there are other reasons wages are rising.

DIANE SWONK: Changes in the minimum wage at the state and local level. Low-wage workers are starting to see the benefits of lifting the minimum wage.

YDSTIE: Swonk says another thing boosting wage growth is more hiring in higher-paying jobs.

SWONK: We're seeing this sort of move up the food chain from temporary hires into more full-time hires, and the composition of job gains is moving up the pay scale.

YDSTIE: Swonk points to business and professional services, like accounting and computer programming, which continued to make strong gains in October. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.

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