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November Jobs Report Shows Steady Growth


We're also tracking some striking economic news this morning. The government reports that 321,000 jobs were added to payrolls around this country in November. That's a lot of jobs - a lot more than in many, many recent months. It's the biggest monthly increase, in fact, in three years. And just as important wages rose strongly after lagging throughout this recovery. NPR's John Ydstie has more.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Another solid month of job growth of around 225,000 a month had been expected. And that wouldn't have been so bad since the past year of growth at that rate has produced the best 12 months of job increases since 1999. Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, had expected a strong number, but not this good.

NARIMAN BEHRAVESH: Well, it clearly is a very, very strong report on any number of fronts. And perhaps the most cheering news was the fact that wages rose four-tenths of a percent last month, which is some of the strongest we've seen in a while.

YDSTIE: Behravesh says the worry has been that while job growth has been solid for the past couple of years, wage growth has barely kept up with inflation.

BEHRAVESH: And this is a first early indication that maybe wages are beginning to increase again. Maybe the recovery is finally spreading to wages, as it were.

YDSTIE: That's important for the well-being of workers and their families, but also suggests a better economic growth in the future as workers have more to spend. That creates more demand and even more jobs. But Behravesh has this caution.

BEHRAVESH: Now, we have to be careful not to jump to conclusions. This is one month. And one month does not a trend make. But still, this is a very good early indicator perhaps of improvement in the wage picture.

YDSTIE: The big increase in jobs didn't push the unemployment rate down though. It remained at 5.8 percent. But Behravesh says there's a good reason for that.

BEHRAVESH: More workers are feeling optimistic about job prospects and are coming back into the labor force. That tends to mean that the unemployment rate either stays flat or may actually rise a little bit. But these are for good reasons, which is to say optimism on the part of job seekers about job prospects.

YDSTIE: Behravesh says this report will get the Federal Reserve's attention. He says if wage growth continues to be as strong in coming months, we could see a rise in interest rates before next summer. 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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