Private payrolls in the US continued to increase at a healthy pace in November, rising 221,000 from the previous month, the US Labor Department reports. The advance marks the second month of 200,000-plus growth. The year-over-year increase ticked up fractionally, suggesting that the labor market's trend may be stabilizing after sliding for much of the year.
Today's update is encouraging, but the latest numbers still point to an ongoing deceleration in the annual pace of growth - a downshift that's been underway for more than two years. The 1.65% increase in November vs. the year-earlier level marks a three-month high, but the downside momentum appears intact.
Indeed, it's not obvious that the long, slow slide from the 2.57% post-recession peak in February 2015 has run its course for the year-over-year change. Looking past the short-term noise still points to a labor market that's aging. There's nothing ominous on the immediate horizon, but the prospects remain weak for expecting an acceleration in the growth trend.
An annual rise in private employment above 1.5%, however, is strong enough to keep the economy humming and investor sentiment bubbling. The question for 2018 is whether gravity will continue to take a toll on the trend?
For now, the near-term outlook remains encouraging. "Not that it was a hurdle to raising rates next week, but the Fed will feel very comfortable with this kind of a jobs report," Ward McCarthy, chief financial economist at Jefferies, tells Bloomberg. "We continue to march toward full employment. Wages are moving in the right direction but they're still slower than we would have liked and certainly slower than what's expected at this stage of the cycle."