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Unemployment rate drops to 3.7%, lowest in nearly half a century

Posted at 7:54 AM, Oct 05, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-05 09:56:25-04

The unemployment rate dropped to a half-century low in September, the Labor Department reported Friday. However, there was an increase in the number of people working part-time who want full-time work.

The unemployment rate is now at 3.7 percent, the lowest rate since December 1969, when the jobless rate was 3.5 percent. That’s despite hiring being slower than expected in September.

“The fall in the unemployment rate is largely due to the ‘right’ reasons: people finding work (i.e. not because people gave up looking),” wrote Elise Gould, senior economist at the Economic Policy Institute.

Only 134,000 jobs were added, while many economists had been expecting about 180,000 jobs to be added. Most say it’s a temporary dip, blaming the effects of Hurricane Florence, which battered and flooded the Carolinas in mid-September, during the time the jobs survey is conducted.

“[T]he official data only include people who were paid something – anything – in the survey period. Part-timers who could not work because of the storm therefore disappear temporarily from the [Labor Department’s] numbers,” Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, wrote in a note.

Other data show the economy roaring ahead. On average, businesses added nearly 200,000 jobs per month this year — well above the number needed to keep up with a growing population.

Average earnings grew 2.8 percent year-over-year. While that’s still lower than what economists would expect with a rock-bottom unemployment rate, it’s an improvement from the 2.0 percent growth seen at the start of this year. Economist Justin Wolfers said September’s data pushes up annnualized wage growth to a healthy 3.8%.