US job creation slows to 155,000 in November; unemployment 3.7 percent

WASHINGTON, Dec 8. Job creation slowed unexpectedly in the United States last month as the service sector added fewer workers, but the unemployment rate held steady at a 49-year low, the government reported Friday.

Hiring fell to 155,000 net new positions in November while the gain in October was revised down to 237,000, the Labor Department reported.

But the jobless rate held steady at 3.7 percent for the third consecutive month and hourly wages continued to outpace inflation.

The November result was substantially weaker than the 189,000 new jobs economists had been expecting to see and also fell short of average gains recorded over the last year.

The soft jobs report could support worries that growth in the world’s largest economy has passed its peak, a fear that has rattled stock markets in recent weeks.

The Federal Reserve has offered some relief by signalling it will consider slowing the pace of interest rates next year — but November’s strong wage gains and low unemployment could add to the case for continuing to tighten monetary policy.

Average hourly earnings rose 3.1 percent over November of 2017, matching the pace recorded in October, which had been the strongest increase in nearly a decade.

But hiring fell in the auto industry, a sector in which major US manufacturers are now increasing layoffs, as well as in hospitality and leisure as well as professional and information services.

Hiring at the federal and local government levels also slowed for the second month in a row.

Ahead of the crucial holiday season, hiring by major retailers reversed some of the declines of recent months, adding 18,000 new positions — but this was partially offset by losses in stores selling clothing and electronics and outlets for sporting goods and books.