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Nov. 1, 2019, 9:21 a.m. EDT

U.S. adds better-than-expected 128,000 jobs in October as economy holds strong

Unemployment rate rises to 3.6% from 3.5% — still near a 50-year nadir

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By Jeffry Bartash, MarketWatch

The numbers: The U.S. created 128,000 new jobs in October and hiring was stronger at the end of summer than previously reported, suggesting the economy is still holding up better than expected despite trade turbulence and a slowdown in global growth.

The increase in hiring last month easily topped the 75,000 forecast of economists surveyed by MarketWatch. Wall Street had expected a six-week GM /zigman2/quotes/205226835/composite GM -0.14%  strike to result in a much smaller increase in employment last month.

The government said the dispute put almost 50,000 people out of work, not including workers at parts suppliers not directly involved.

Employment might have grown by close to 200,000 last month absent the GM strike and the end of 20,000 temporary Census jobs. That would have been a very strong number.

The unemployment rate, meanwhile, edged up to 3.6% from 3.5%, still hanging around the lowest level since 1969.

Before the October employment report, premarket trading pointed to a small opening for the stock market.

Read: Consumer sentiment shows Americans still fairly optimistic

What happened: Restaurants and bars led the way in hiring by adding 48,000 jobs. Professional jobs rose by 22,000, social-assistance providers added 20,000 jobs and financial companies increased employment by 16,000.

Retailers also beefed up payrolls for the second month in a row. Employment had fallen seven straight months until finally increasing in September and October. Retailers have hired 14,000 people in the past two months.

Payrolls fell by 36,000 in manufacturing, but that mostly reflected the GM strike. Government employment slipped by 3,000.

Wages rose 0.2% in October to $28.18 an hour, but worker pay isn’t increasing as fast as it was earlier in the year. Wages have climbed 3% in the past 12 months.

Updated figures for September and August, meanwhile, show that the economy added 95,000 more jobs than the government previously reported.

The government revised the increase in new jobs in September to 180,000 from 136,000. August’s gain was raised to 219,000 from 168,000. Put simply, hiring didn’t slow down as much toward the end of summer as it initially seemed.

Read: ADP says 125,000 private-sector jobs created in October

Big picture: The surprisingly strong October employment report doesn’t alter a recent trend of slower hiring across the U.S. The festering trade dispute with China has stunted the global economy, curbed exports and harmed American manufacturers.

The economy has added an average of 156,000 new jobs over the past six months, down from a three-year peak of 232,000 at the start of the year.

Yet even though hiring and the economy have softened, companies are still filling jobs and few have resorted to widespread job cuts. Layoffs and unemployment remain near a 50-year low, giving Americans the confidence to keep spending enough to propel the economy forward.

A series of interest-rate cuts by the Federal Reserve that have cut borrowing costs for businesses and consumers are also expected to give the economy a lift in the months ahead.

Read: Confident consumers keep U.S. economy plugging along, GDP shows

What they are saying? American companies picked up the pace of hiring in October, suggesting the worst might be over for the economic slowdown,” said senior economist Sal Guatieri of BMO Capital Markets.

“Over the past decade, the labor market has demonstrated surprising strength many times even as other measures of the economy cast a shadow of doubt. It’s doing so again,” said Jim Baird, chief investment officer at Plante Moran Financial Advisors.

“Job creation is firm when you strip out the effects of strikes at GM and a drop in census employment,” said Charles Seville, co-head of Americas sovereigns at Fitch Ratings.

Market reaction: The Dow Jones Industrial Average /zigman2/quotes/210598065/realtime DJIA +0.78% and S&P 500 /zigman2/quotes/210599714/realtime SPX +0.89% were set to open higher in Friday trades and remain near record highs. The 10-year Treasury yield /zigman2/quotes/211347051/realtime BX:TMUBMUSD10Y +3.49% rose to 1.72%.

$ 29.55
-0.04 -0.14%
Volume: 289,807
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P/E Ratio
Dividend Yield
Market Cap
$42.35 billion
Rev. per Employee
US : Dow Jones Global
+217.47 +0.78%
Volume: 29.30M
Oct. 1, 2020 9:40a
+29.84 +0.89%
Volume: 158.44M
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add Add to watchlist BX:TMUBMUSD10Y
BX : Tullett Prebon
+0.02 +3.49%
Volume: 0.00
Oct. 1, 2020 9:40a

Jeffry Bartash is a reporter for MarketWatch in Washington.

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