The November non-farm payrolls reading came in much stronger than expected as the U.S. economy added 321,000 jobs during the period, outpacing the consensus of a 231,000 increase. As expected, the jobless rate held steady at 5.8%, its lowest level in six years.
The latest hiring gain marked the strongest pace of jobs growth since January 2012 and the 10th consecutive monthly gain above 200,000. As though that ain’t promising enough, the previous NFP readings for September and October were upgraded to show an additional 44,000 increase in employment.
Still not impressed? Other components of the jobs report indicated that wages picked up, as average hourly earnings increased by 9 cents or 0.4% in November, chalking up a 2.1% gain from a year ago. That’s twice as much as the estimated 0.2% uptick and is its largest increase since June 2013.
Aside from that, the participation rate held steady at 62.8%, suggesting that Americans aren’t exiting the labor force and are feeling more hopeful about their employment prospects. In fact, a broader measure of joblessness which takes into account those who gave up looking for work or those who pursued part-time jobs even though they wanted full-time employment fell from 11.5% to 11.4% – a new six-year low.
Strong employment gains were seen across most sectors, as retailers and manufacturing companies ramped up hiring ahead of the holiday season. Employment in the professional and business services sector surged by 68,000 while government payrolls picked up by 7,000.
All in all, it looks like the U.S. jobs situation is as good as the headline NFP readings suggest. So does this mean that the Fed will be ready to hike rates next year?
Economists predict that Fed Chairperson Janet Yellen and her gang of policymakers might start tightening monetary policy by mid-2015, as improvements in employment have been pretty consistent. Heck, some are even expecting the Fed to drop the “considerable time” wording when it comes to their time frame for keeping rates unchanged in this month’s FOMC statement!
Given how Yellen usually takes improvements in stride though, the Fed head might still retain her cautious bias and keep rate hike expectations in check. After all, the U.S. central bank is also keeping close tabs on inflation and so far, the annual CPI is just at 1.4%, which is more than a few notches below the Fed’s 2% target. Any hawkish remarks could spur more dollar rallies in the forex market, which could keep price pressures in check.
Nonetheless, the Greenback could stay supported for the next few months, as the U.S. economy is ahead of the pack while other major economies such as the euro zone and Japan are lagging far behind. The Fed’s next policy move is likely to be a rate hike and it’s just a question of when they would give the green light.