Private payrolls increased 209,000 in October, according to this morning’s report from the US Labor Department. The gain was moderately below the consensus forecast, although last month’s advance still looks good. Indeed, the private sector added jobs at or above the 200,000 mark for the ninth-straight month — the longest run of consecutive monthly growth at or above 200k in two decades. Nonetheless, today’s release still leaves room for debate about whether the US economy is accelerating. This much, however, is clear: the moderate expansion of late rolls on.
Although the year-over-year gain ticked down in October to 2.24%, last month’s annual pace remained close to the strongest increase we’ve seen in several years. The acceleration so far has been modest (and a bit softer in October), but the upward bias clearly represents a solid improvement over the deceleration that took hold in late-2013. It’s unclear if the labor market’s momentum can deliver even stronger growth in the months ahead, but for now it’s safe to say that the recovery in payrolls is intact.
“The global growth slowdown hasn’t stopped us,” observes David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide Insurance. “Companies do not want to let people go because they’re finding it more difficult to find good replacements.”
If nothing else, today’s payrolls report confirms this point. There’s still no smoking gun for arguing that growth is accelerating, but it’s equally hard to argue that the US macro trend is weakening. For the moment, it’s more of the same. Moderate growth for payrolls is less than the ideal scenario for repairing the damage that lingers from the Great Recession. But the progress is steady and shows no signs of fading.
“Today’s jobs report confirms that the US remains the bright spot in a global economic picture filling with clouds,” notes Michael Griffin, managing director at the Corporate Executive Board.
The challenge, of course, is hanging on to the momentum. Much depends on how much darkness descends over Europe in the months ahead. China, too, is showing signs of deceleration these days, albeit in the form of slower growth vs. the torrid pace of recent years. But for now, there’s still a positive wind blowing for the US economy.