News / Economy

US Job Growth Defies Predictions

VOA News
The U.S. labor market unexpectedly added 204,000 jobs in October, defying economists' predictions that last month's partial government shutdown would slow hiring.

However, the government also reported Friday that the national jobless rate inched up last month from 7.2 percent to 7.3 percent - the first time the figure has risen since May. But the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the increase - at least in part - was due to the political dispute that closed most government offices during the first half, when 800,000 federal workers were furloughed.

Many American economists had predicted that hiring eased last month. But the government report said new jobs were added in several sectors of the economy, including leisure and hospitality, retail trade, professional services and manufacturing.

The government also revised job growth numbers upward for August and September, saying that an additional 60,000 people were added to payrolls in those months.

Economist Jim O'Sullivan at High Frequency Economics told VOA the recent job gains were unexpected and point to an advancing U.S. economy.

"The takeaway here is that the economy is showing some good momentum," he said.

The latest job numbers follow a report Thursday that the American economy, the world's largest, advanced by 2.8 percent in the July-to-September period, when some analysts thought it had slowed.

In the early months of 2013, the U.S. was adding an average of more than 200,000 jobs a month. The job growth slowed later, but government studies show employers are now laying off fewer workers and some businesses hiring more.

Policy makers at the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, are watching the economic trends before deciding whether to trim stimulus measures they have taken to try to boost the country's economy, which is still recovering from the deepest recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Economist O'Sullivan said the expectation of financial markets has been that the Fed would not start to cut its direct support of the U.S. economy until early in 2014. But he said the improving job growth figures could push policy makers to act at their mid-December meeting.

"These better-than-expected numbers, I think, bring tapering back into the conversation for the December meeting," he said.

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