Washington — Three days after voters registered their sourness about the U.S. economy, the government said Friday that employers added a solid 214,000 jobs in October, extending the healthiest pace of hiring in eight years.
The Labor Department also said a combined 31,000 more jobs were added in August and September than it had previously estimated. Employers have now added at least 200,000 jobs for nine straight months — the longest such stretch since 1995.
The burst of hiring lowered the unemployment rate to 5.8 percent from 5.9 percent. It is the lowest rate since July 2008. Yet workers’ average hourly pay rose only slightly, a glaring weak spot in an otherwise solid report.
Voters identified the economy as their top concern in Tuesday’s elections. That suggested that economic improvement hasn’t yet been felt by many Americans. The sluggish pace of pay growth is a likely factor.
Average hourly pay rose 3 cents in October to $24.57. That’s just 2 percent higher than the average wage was 12 months earlier and is barely ahead of the 1.7 percent inflation rate.
“While the labor market is improving and in many respects has already healed, employee bargaining power remains virtually nonexistent,” Dan Greenhaus, an analyst at the brokerage firm BTIG LLC, said in a research note.
Still, the brightening jobs picture led more people to start looking for work last month. The percentage of Americans who either have a job or are looking for one rose in October to 62.8 percent. And 267,000 people who had been out of work said they were now employed. Their hiring reduced the number of unemployed to just under 9 million.
The job gains were broad-based, though many lower-paying industries posted especially large increases. Retailers added 27,100 jobs. Restaurants, hotels and entertainment firms gained 52,000.
Some higher-paying industries also showed progress. Manufacturers added 15,000 jobs, up from 9,000 the previous month. Transportation and shipping companies gained 13,300. And professional and business services, which includes accountants, engineers and other higher-skilled fields, added 37,000.
Analysts say the economic expansion remains strong enough to support the current pace of hiring. Over the past six months, the economy has grown at a 4.1 percent annual rate.
U.S. manufacturers are expanding at the fastest pace in three years, according to a survey by the Institute for Supply Management, a trade group. A measure of new orders showed that factory output will likely continue to grow in coming months. A separate survey by the ISM found that retailers, restaurants and other service companies grew at a healthy pace last month.
Home sales rose in September at their fastest rate this year, a sign that housing could pick up after a sluggish performance for most of this year.
Still, faltering global growth could create trouble for the U.S. economy in the months ahead. Exports fell in September, the government said this week, widening the trade deficit. That led many economists to shave their predictions of economic growth in the July-September quarter to an annual rate of 3 percent or less, down from the government’s initial estimate of 3.5 percent.
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