WASHINGTON — Hiring in the United States jumped last month to its highest level since January as U.S. employers shrugged off trade conflicts and a global slowdown and added 266,000 jobs.
The unemployment rate dipped to 3.5% from 3.6% in October, matching a half-century low, the Labor Department reported Friday. And wages rose a solid 3.1% in November compared with a year earlier.
November’s healthy job gain runs against a widespread view that many employers are either delaying hiring until a breakthrough in the U.S.-China trade war is reached or are struggling to find workers with unemployment so low. The pace of hiring points to the resilience of the job market and economy more than a decade into the U.S. economic expansion — the longest on record.
Steady job growth has helped reassure consumers that the economy is expanding and that their jobs and incomes remain secure. Consumer spending has become an even more important driver of growth as the U.S. government’s trade conflicts have reduced exports and led many businesses to cut spending.
“Today’s jobs report, more than any other report in recent months, squashed any lingering concerns about an imminent recession in the U.S. economy,” said Gad Levanon, an economist at the Conference Board, a business research group. “Consumers are entering the holiday season with both the ability and the willingness to spend.”
The healthy data suggested that the Federal Reserve, which meets next week, is unlikely to cut its benchmark short-term interest rate anytime soon. The Fed has cut rates three times this year to help nurture the economy.
At the same time, Chairman Jerome Powell has said the Fed is not inclined to raise rates in response to ultra-low unemployment until inflation has risen consistently, which has yet to happen. The perception that any rate hikes are a long way off has helped underpin the stock market’s gains.
Monthly job growth has picked up since summer: It has averaged 205,000 over the past three months, up from just 135,000 in July.
Fears that the U.S. economy might slip into recession peaked during the fall as the U.S.-China trade war intensified and financial market trends pointed to a downturn in the coming year or two.