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Labor Department releases November jobs report

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

We got another solid jobs report this morning, thanks in part to Hollywood and Detroit. U.S. employers added 199,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate dipped to 3.7%. NPR's Scott Horsley is covering all this. Scott, good morning.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What do you make of those numbers?

HORSLEY: What this report tells us is the job market is holding steady. That headline number - 199,000 jobs added in November - is up from October, when employers added 150,000 jobs. But almost all that increase reflects the end of two big strikes. So we had about 30,000 autoworkers back on the job in November and another 17,000 people back at work on movie and TV sets. If you strip out those labor-related gains, hiring in November was almost exactly the same as what we saw in October. Now, that is a downshift from earlier in the year, and there are some other signs that the job market is cooling a bit. But economist Nick Bunker, who's with the Indeed Hiring Lab, says it doesn't look as if the job market is going to come to a crashing halt.

NICK BUNKER: The recent string of data we've gotten are very encouraging for the prospects of a soft landing. We're seeing a lead market that's moderating in a relatively painless way.

HORSLEY: Ordinarily, when the Federal Reserve raises interest rates the way it has to get inflation under control, you'd expect to see a spike in job losses. And so far, that has not happened.

INSKEEP: Nor have we seen the recession that many people confidently expected at some point in 2023. How good is the unemployment number?

HORSLEY: It's really good. It fell to 3.7% in November. It's now been under 4% for 22 months in a row. That's the longest streak like that since the Vietnam War. And what's really encouraging is that unemployment has stayed low, even as more than half a million people came off the sidelines last month and joined the workforce. You know, for a while, we did have this sort of chaotic job market where lots of people were quitting every month and changing jobs, and employers were scrambling to fill job openings. In recent months, Bunker says that has sort of settled down.

BUNKER: The labor market is just a calmer place than where it's been the last few years. People are more likely to stay in their job than they were last year or the year before that. There's just less churn. This also suggests that many employers are very reluctant to let go of the folks that they do have on payroll right now.

HORSLEY: So while employers might be a little slower to hire new people right now, they're also very slow to reach for pink slips because they don't want to get caught shorthanded again.

INSKEEP: What's happening to the wages employers are paying?

HORSLEY: Wage growth has slowed down. Average wages in November were up 4% from a year ago. That is a smaller increase than we were seeing back when the job market was more overheated. But, you know, a lot of those earlier pay raises were gobbled up by inflation. The good news now is that wages are generally rising faster than prices, so workers are enjoying a real boost in their buying power. You know, better to get a 4% pay raise and have 3% inflation than to get a 7% pay raise when inflation's at 9%.

INSKEEP: Such a good report. Scott, you deserve a raise.

HORSLEY: Thank you so much.

INSKEEP: NPR's Scott Horsley.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Steve Inskeep is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, as well as NPR's morning news podcast Up First.
Scott Horsley is NPR's Chief Economics Correspondent. He reports on ups and downs in the national economy as well as fault lines between booming and busting communities.