1st Time Jobless Claims Remain Highly Volatile, Falling 10,000 in Last Week

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended December 3 FELL 10,000 to 258,000;
  • The number of claims for the week ended November 28 was unchanged at 268,000
  • Filings remained under 300,000 for the 92nd straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims INCREASED 1,000 to 252,500;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.166 percent of total employment, UP .001 percentage points from a week earlier;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended November 28 – reported on a one-week lag – DECREASED 79,000 – largest week-week drop since July 2015 — to 2,005,000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended November 21 was REVISED UP 3,000 to 2,084.000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims FELL 9,500 to 2,028,750;

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First time claims for unemployment insurance remained extremely volatile as the calendar turned to December, with a five-figure swing for the fifth straight week, according to the Labor Department.

The average change (regardless of direction) for the last five weeks has been 15,400 compared 6,600 for the previous five weeks. To be sure, the net change has been a drop of 7,000 claims over the last five weeks, but the wide swings suggest some instability in labor markets which would call into question the wisdom of tinkering with interest rates in the short term. Nonetheless, “body language” from the Federal Open Market Committee – the federal Reserve Board’s policy-setting arm – suggest the FOMC is poised to lower the target fed funds rate when it convenes next Tuesday. Though widely anticipated, the FOMC action could our a damper on holiday sales. Retailers had been anticipating strong sales, up about 3.6 percent, according to the National Retail Federation (NRF).

The NRF estimated retailers would add between 640,000 and 690,000 jobs to deal with the increased sales volume for the holiday season which, according to NRF, covers all of November and December.

The four week moving average, designed to smooth the volatility of the weekly numbers, is showing less of a swing in the last five weeks ranging from an increase of 1,000 to a drop of 6,000 and a net decline of 5,250 for the period dropping the total to 252,500, 6.7 percent below the level a year ago.

Despite the recent volatility, both initial claims and continuing claims have been on a relatively stable downward trajectory over the past year. Continuing claims, often seen as a surrogate for hiring, are down 10.7 percent from a year ago. The four-week moving average of continuing claims has dropped a more modest7.1 percent.

In raw numbers, continuing claims fell 241,000 in the last year with most of that decline, 137,000, since September 1.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Great Recession Changed Attitudes Towards Charity: Study

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

 

It’s not surprising that charities become more important during times of economic stress when the wealthy are called upon to make more donations to support favorite – or even not favorite — causes. Therefore, the findings of three Texas A & M economists that charitable giving fell during the Great Recession – and not just because money was tighter – does come as a surprise.

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In a paper released earlier this week by the National Bureau of Economic Research — The Great Recession and Charitable Giving – the trio,  Jonathan Meer, David H. Miller, and Elisa Wulfsberg, found sharp declines in overall donative behavior that is not accounted for by shocks to income or wealth.”

Meer, Miller and Wulfsberg looked at both the amounts given and the likelihood of making a donation, finding that giving had fallen during the Recession and, as significantly that it had not recovered by 2012, three years after the Recession ended, according to NBER which dates business cycles.

“These findings,” they concluded, provide evidence that other factors like changing attitudes toward giving or increased uncertainty, explain much of the fall in giving during the Great Recession.”

Their research covered the period leading up to the Recession.

“Giving begins to decline by 2008,” they wrote, “though the inclusion of income and wealth controls … account for much of this impact. By 2010, though, the likelihood of giving has fallen sharply, by 8.8 percentage points…to 4.5 percentage points.”

And, they added, “despite a partial recovery of the economy by 2012, the probability of giving falls even further relative to 2000 levels.”

The amount given also “falls dramatically during and after the Great Recession,” they found.

“Shocks to income and wealth do not account for this drop,” the authors concluded, “suggesting that broader shifts in attitudes towards giving or increased uncertainty are at work.”

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Hiring, Job Openings Fall in October in Labor Sector Slowdown

 By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • Hiring FELL in October, dropping to the lowest level since May;
  • Job openings at the end of October DECLINED for only the third time this year;
  • The ratio of unemployed to job opening WAS UNCHANGED in October at 1.41. still down sharply from the Recession peak of 6.48 in November 2009
  • The number of job openings FELL in October in construction, manufacturing and information sectors.

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The labor picture dimmed in October as both hiring and job openings declined, data picked up in the Employment Situation release, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS).

Matching the two reports, which together track the labor market, showed unemployment increased in the construction, manufacturing and trade sectors

The report, which tracks the ins and outs of the labor market (while the Employment Situation report provides a snapshot) appeared to contradict suggestions of a new robustness in the labor market. Indeed, last week’s Employment Situation release (for November) was the third report in the last four to show jobs gains of less than 200,000 – far below the number of jobs necessary to accommodate the increase in the over-16, working age, population.

That the number of job openings fell in October, is consistent with the weaker job growth in November.

That said, even though hiring slipped in October (when the Employment Situation release noted an increase of 142,000 – the smallest increase since May) the nation’s economy is still on track for an overall 62.37 million hires in 2016 which would be 1.05 percent more than in 2015 and the largest total since 2006, the year before the Recession.

At the same time, the number of separations is on track to hit 60.05 million this year increase in the number of job openings – up 1.8 percent from 2015.

The number of “quits,” a signal of worker confidence in the ability to find a new job, dipped slightly to 2.99 million in October and is on track to hit 35.5 million for the full year, up 6.2 percent from 2015.

The JOLTS report, based on the number of openings by industry offered some hints as to sectors which might be expanding, among them education and health services, financial services and government. The number of government jobs indeed increased by 22,000 according to last week’s jobs report for October.

You can hear Mark Lieberman on P.O.T.U.S Morning Briefing (Sirius 124) every Friday at 6:20 am Eastern Time. Follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Unemployment Rate Dips to 4.6% in November But Earnings Fall

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

 

Highlights

  • Unemployment rate DROPPED in November to 4.6 percent – lowest since August 2007 — from 4.9 percent in October;
  • Payroll jobs INCREASED 178,000 in November
  • Average weekly hours in November REMAINED at October’s 34.4;
  • Average weekly earnings DECLINED in November to $890.62 — down $1.03 from October —dropping the year-year increase to 2.2 percent from 2.4 percent in October;
  • Average hourly earnings FELL 3¢ in November to $25.89;
  • Revisions to September and October payrolls added 17,000 jobs to September, now up 208,000 but subtracted 19,000 from August, now up 142,000
  • The number of full-time workers INCREASED 9,000 in November but the number of part-time workers GREW 118,000;
  • Labor force participation rate SLIPPED to 62.7 percent, the second straight month-month decline;
  • Employment-Population ratio REMAINED at 59.7 percent
  • For the second month in a row, retail jobs declined, down 8,300 in November after falling 8,900 in October; most of the job losses were at clothing stores; the information sector shed 10,000 jobs in November, led by a drop of 4,1000 broadcast jobs;
  • Leisure and hospitality sector added 29,000 jobs including almost 19,000 restaurant jobs;
  • Governments added 22,000 jobs: 14,000 local government jobs –primarily education; 5,000 at the state level and 3,000 federal;

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This was another good news, bad news employment report: good because the unemployment rate, aided by a decline in the labor force, fell to 4.6 percent but bad because earnings – both hourly and weekly, fell as well, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even the number of new payroll jobs – 178,000 was barely ahead of the 175,000 average monthly gain in the prior three months.

And, the 178,000 new jobs included an increase of 61,000 multiple job holders, so about one-third of the new jobs went to individuals who already had jobs.

As disappointing as the jobs gains were, the drop in earnings hurt even more heading into the holiday shopping season although retailers – primarily clothing stores – seemed to have an inkling. While total retail jobs fell 8,900, clothing store shed 17,600 jobs.

It remains to be seen whether the jobs report – the last before the Federal Open Market Committee meets in two weeks to consider interest rates – will remain on track to lift the target federal funds rate. Raising rates will only slow the economy which showed surprising strength in the third quarter, growing at 3.2 percent according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis Thursday. While that was better than twice the 1.4 percent growth rate in the second quarter, the third quarter report coincided with the end of the federal fiscal year when agencies typically increase spending. Indeed, while government spending was up just $1.8 billion in the third quarter, it had fallen $12.3 million in the second.

Not everything in the employment report was discouraging. The number of professional and business service jobs was up 63,000 including 14,300 temporary jobs – which perhaps offset some of the cutbacks in retail employment. The 63,000 November increase was far above the 50,000 average monthly gain in that sector for the previous three months.

The number of health and education jobs increased 44,000, shy of the three-month average increase of 49,000.

Just about every segment of the labor force saw improvement in its discreet unemployment rate. The most significant exception was the unemployment rate for those without a high school diploma. The unemployment rate for those individuals rose 0.6 percentage points to 7.9 percent.

The report showed some consistency with the weekly claims for unemployment insurance. The number of individuals unemployed for five to 14 weeks dropped 160,000 to 2,136,000 as first time claims for unemployment insurance claims dropped from mid-October to mid-November.

The number of unemployed individuals dropped 387,000 in November, consistent with the decline in the labor force, but that included a drop in the numbers of new entrants and re-entrants to the labor force.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday morning at 6:20 am on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM 124.

You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

 

October Existing Home Sales Improve as Prices Decline…Again

 By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • The pace of existing home sales IMPROVED 2.0 percent in October, or 110,000, to a seasonally adjusted annual sales rate of 5.60 million, the fastest pace since February 2007;
  • The September sales rate was revised up from 5.47 million to 5.49 million
  • Median price of an existing single family home FELL for the fourth straight month down $3,100 or 1.3 percent to $232,200;
  • In the last four months, the median price of an existing single-family home has dropped $15,400 or 6.2 percent.
  • Year-year the median price is UP $13,100 or 6.0 percent;
  • Number of homes available for sale in October DIPPED 0.5 percent or 10,000 to 2.02 million;
  • The months’ supply of homes for sale in October SLIPPED to 4.3 from 4.4 in September.

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Sales of existing single-family homes improved again in October as prices continued to fall. The pace of sales rose 2.0 percent from September as prices dropped 1.3 percent, according to the National Association of Realtors (NAR).

The four-month price drop – from July through October – matched a similar decline last year when prices fell 7.3 percent in the same four-month span. As last year, sale rose in two of the four months.

The price drop, while providing an immediate boost to sales, also, as last year, resulted in a drop in inventory as measured by the month supply of homes for sale which dropped to 4.3 in October; when the prices began to fall, the months’ supply was 4.5. A year ago, the supply fell from 5.0 to 4.8 when prices sell.

While lower prices may be good for buyers they have the opposite effect on sellers and result in delayed retirements as sellers are unable to realize the return they expected to fund retirement.

The uptick in sales is the result of lower prices and higher earnings which themselves are the result of a tighter labor market. At the same time continued low interest rates draw buyers to the market. But with suggestions the Federal Open Market Committee may raise the target fed funds rate when it next meets December 13-14, buyers could be accelerating decisions before mortgage rates increase.

When the FOMC met on November 1-2 and agreed to keep the fed funds rate unchanged, it made no reference, in its end-of-meeting statement, to housing markets

According to the NAR, home sales improved as a result of the summer’s pent-up demand.

 

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday, on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124, at 6:20 am Eastern Time. You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

1st Time Jobless Insurance Claims Plunge to Lowest Level Since 1973

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • 1st time claims for unemployment insurance for the week ended November 12 FELL 19,000 to 235,000, a 43-year low.
  • The number of claims for the week ended November 5 was unchanged at 254,000
  • Filings remained under 300,000 for the 89th straight week, the longest streak since 1970;
  • Four week moving average of first time claims DROPPED 6,500 to 253,500;
  • The four week moving average represented 0.167 percent of total employment, UNCHANGED from a week earlier;
  • Continuing claims for the week ended November 5 – reported on a one-week lag – DECREASED 66,000 to 1,977,000, the lowest level since April 2000;
  • The number of continuing claims for the week ended October 29 was REVISED UP 2,000 to 2,043.000;
  • Four-week moving average of continuing claims FELL 19,250 to 2,022,500, the lowest level since June 2000

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In yet another sign the labor market is tightening, initial claims for unemployment insurance fell to a 43-year low in the week ended November 12, the Labor Department reported Thursday. .  But before breaking out the champagne, it might be instructive to note first time claims usually dip this time of year – juts not by as much as they did this year

The sharp drop in claims came at the end of the reference week used by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for the monthly Employment Situation report including the unemployment rate as well as job creation statistics. From mid-September to mid-October, the number of first time claims for unemployment insurance dropped 12,000 but the four-week moving average rose 1,500. Those number suggest layoffs could still be a drag on the jobs report. Continuing claims numbers – more a reflection of hiring than employment, will not be reported for the reference week until next week.

Nonetheless, the claims data are another reflection of how far the economy has come since the Great Recession. In mid-2009, when the Recession was at its worst, initial claims for unemployment insurance were about 600,000 a week and continuing claims routinely topped 6.5 million. Indeed, the last time continuing claims were under, 2,000,000 was more than 45 years ago when the nation’s unemployment rate was about 4.5 percent, rising from 3.4 percent from late 1968 to mid-1969.

The near-term outlook for the unemployment rate is positive as stores staff up for holiday sales activity, all of which will make the last months of the Obama administration look even better and set up the incoming Trump administration for a negative comparison.

You can hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Housing Starts Surge On Sharp Increase in Multi-Family Building

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights

  • The rate of housing starts in October SKYROCKETED 25.5 percent – the sharpest month-month increase since June 1980, 36 years — to a seasonally adjusted annualized rate of 1.323 million units, the highest level since August 2007;
  • The increase was led by a 68.8 percent in multi-family starts to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 454,000, the fastest pace since June 2015. The increase was a bounce-back from September when multi-family starts tumbled 39.8 percent.
  • Builder confidence, in November, reported Wednesday by the National Association of Home Builders, HELD STEADY at 63 (out of 100), after surging six points to 65 in September;
  • The pace of building permits ROSE a scant 0.3 percent in October to 1.229 million (SAAR) still though the highest level since last November; permits for single-family homes rose 2.7 percent while permits for multi-family housing fell 3.3 percent;
  • Single-family home completions ROSE 3.9 percent while multi-family completions increased 9.7 percent.

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In a sharp reversal from September, multi-family housing starts jumped in October bring total housing starts to their highest level in almost 10 years, according to a joint Census Bureau Department of Housing and Urban Development report. The surge came primarily in the Midwest and South where total starts rose 44.1 percent and 17.9 percent respectively while single family starts in those regions far exceeding the increase in single-family starts. Single-family starts in the South increased by almost 100,000 units, perhaps a response to destruction from Hurricane Matthew. Geographic detail of the permit activity will be reported next week.

But the shocker was the increase in multi-family activity continuing to reflect a reluctance by millennials to jump into the housing market, opting for a multi- rather than single-family lifestyle.

That’s disappointing news for a growing brood of empty-nesters trying to sell their homes to unlock a retirement nest egg. The dearth of millennial buyers has rippled through the housing market – and by extension sales of furniture and appliances. Supporting that view, the nation’s homeownership rate in the third quarter improved to 63.5 percent after falling to 62.9 percent in the second quarter, the lowest rate in 51 years.

Home builders may though be operating on the if-you-build-it-he-will-come theory in building single-family homes. New home sales (actually contracts) rose 3.1 percent in September (the last month for which data are available). Even the spike in the median price of a new home didn’t lead to an increase in starts. The median price of a new home rose in September to $313,500, a 6.7 percent increase, after falling in July and August.

While encouraging, the Census still suggests am absence of consistency in the housing sector which could leave it vulnerable to another downturn.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday at 6:20 am on POTUS Morning Briefing, Sirius-XM 124. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconomics.

Builder Confidence Steady in November

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

 

Highlights:

  • November Housing Market Index WAS UNCHANGED from October at 63 (out of 100);
  • Outlook for future sales DROPPED two points but buyer traffic INCREASED one point; the outlook for current sales was unchanged;
  • By region, builder confidence ROSE in November in three regions and was unchanged in the South.

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In what could be considered the first market reaction to Donald Trump’s surprise election victory, builder confidence was unchanged in November according to the National Association of Home Builders’ Housing Market Index released Wednesday.  http://www.nahb.org/en/news-and-publications/press-releases/2016/11/builder-confidence-holds-firm-in-november.aspx

The index is based on builder assessments of three housing market factors: assessment of current conditions; evaluation of sales six months out and buyer traffic. The survey was conducted in the first 10 days of November and thus picked up some reaction to the election results.

At 63, the overall index is near its highest level in more than 10 years. The index hit 65 in October 2015 and again this past September. For the first 11 months of this year, the index has averaged 60, two points higher than the same period last year.

Residential construction employment, which reflects builder confidence, is up 5.6 percent over 2015 as the rate of new home sales is up almost 30 percent from 2015.Another measure of housing construction activity – housing permits – is also up, about 8.5 percent higher than 2015. Housing starts, affected by weather, were down 11.9 percent year-year as buyer preferences shifted from multi-family to single family housing and multi-family starts dropped sharply.

In the NAHB survey, buyer traffic rose one point in November to 47, matching September for the highest level in a year. While the outlook for home sales six month forward slipped two points to 69, the forecast for current sales held steady at 69.

Regionally, confidence was flat or improved in all four census regions for the first time since March.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday on P.O.T.U.S. radio, Sirius-XM 124, at 6:20 am Eastern Time. Follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @ foxeconomics.

Retail Sales Up 0.8% in October; Brisk Start for 4th Quarter

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

Highlights:

  • October retail sales – measured by prices – INCREASED $3.8 billion or 0.8 percent from August, led by a $1 billion gain in auto sales;
  • The initial report that September sales had increased 0.6 percent from August was revised to show a 1.0 percent INCREASE;
  • Year-year sales ROSE 4.2 percent in October, the strongest month-month increase since November 2014;
  • Excluding automobile sales, retail sales GREW 1.8 percent or $1.8 billion in October, after falling $561 million or 0.2 percent in August;
  • Gasoline prices ROSE 3¢ per gallon or 1.9 percent in October leading to 2.2 percent or $750 million increase in gasoline sales for the month and the first year-year increase in gasoline stations sales since May 2014;
  • Sales at virtually category of stores rose in October with furniture stores and restaurants the only exceptions;

Increases in average hourly and weekly earnings in October translated into an increase in retail activity, according to the Census Bureau.

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But indeed, the increase in sales came in a month in which retailers scaled back, as employment in the retail sector slipped for the first time since April. The largest declines in retail employment in October came in the clothing stores and electronics store.

Sales in clothing stores increased by 0.6 percent in October, the strongest gain in eight months. Sales at electronics stores increased just 0.2 percent in October, the first month-month increase in five months.

The Census report is not adjusted for inflation so any reported increase in sales are as likely to be the result of price increase as increased sales activity.

Retail employment also fell at furniture stores in October as sale dropped 0.9 percent, the third decline in four months.

Restaurant jobs increased a modest 9,900 in October, down sharply from the average monthly gain of almost 21,000 jobs since October 2015. Sales at restaurants fell 0.7 percent in October, the largest decline since January when sales fell 1.0 percent month-month.

The strong increase in retail sales in October 0.;8 percent compared with an average monthly gain of 0.3 percent for the first nine months of the years, suggest a strong start for 4th quarter GDP. Retail sales are about 55 percent of total personal consumption which in turn is about 67 percent of total GDP.

 

Average hourly earnings increased 10¢ in October, the largest boost since May 2015. Average weekly earnings were up $3.44 in October after a $5.33 increase in September. Year over year average weekly earnings are up 2.4 percent, the strongest year-year growth since January. In the first nine month of the year, the average year-year growth in weekly earnings was 1.8 percent.

Hear Mark Lieberman on the Morning Briefing on P.O.T.U.S. radio @sxmpotus, Sirius-XM 124, every Friday at 6:20 am Eastern Time. You can follow him on Twitter at @foxeconmics.

 

 

Unemployment Rate Dips to 4.9% in October as Matthew Affects Jobs Report

By Mark Lieberman

Managing Director and Senior Economist

 

Highlights

  • Unemployment rate DROPPED in October to 4.9 percent, from 5.0 percent in September;
  • Payroll jobs INCREASED 161,000 in October, third straight month of fewer than 200,000 new jobs;
  • Average weekly hours in October REMAINED at September’s 34.4;
  • Average weekly earnings INCREASED in October to $891.65 — a $3.44 increase—2.4 percent year-over-year, the fastest annual growth since January;
  • Average hourly earnings rose 10¢ in October to $25.92;
  • Revisions to August and September payroll growth added 44,000 jobs: 9,000 in August to 176,000 and 35,000 in September to 197,000;
  • The number of full-time workers DROPPED 105,000 in October as the number of part-time workers INCREASED 90,000;
  • Due to the impact of Hurricane Matthew, the labor force FELL 195; the number of people working DROPPED 43k and the number of people unemployed FELL 152k
  • Labor force participation rate SLIPPED to 62.8 percent
  • Employment-Population ratio DROPPED to 59.7 percent
  • Private sector added 142k jobs; government — led by 12k new federal jobs — added 19k;
  • Education and Health added 52k jobs, construction 11k but manufacturing shed 9k;
  • Retail jobs fell 1,100, temp jobs INCREASED only 6,400, far below the three-month average of 11,500; Leisure and hospitality jobs GREW by 10,000; that the two lowest paying occupations added few jobs, led to the increase in average hourly and monthly wages;

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Two words can be used to describe the October Employment Situation report: Hurricane Matthew. The storms impact along the eastern seaboard affected not only the number of jobs and the number of persons employed (and unemployed) but by extension and arithmetic average hourly and weekly earnings. In some instances – such as earnings – the impact was strongly positive; in others: the job and employment counts.it was unremarkable but resulted in the fourth straight month the nation has added fewer than 200,000 payroll jobs.

While the instant report offers little for either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump from a political standpoint, the longer term view underscores the jobs recovery since President Obama took office in January 2009: 11.7 million new jobs and 12 million more people working.

The income numbers – which were positive – were affected by the use of averages and the fact the two lowest paying occupations – retail sector jobs and leisure and hospitality (combined) barely grew. Those two sectors added just 8,900 jobs against a three-month average of 21,600.

The retail sector job losses were led by 15,600 jobs at sporting goods stores and 10,900 building supply and garden supply stores, a signal of changing weather.

There were 4,000 new residential construction jobs compared with the three-month average gain of 10,000/

The jobs report – which looked strong to some because of the income growth – is a new snag in the Federal Open Market Committee’s plans to raise the target federal funds rate when it meets in December. The FOMC though will get another read on the labor market in the next Employment Situation report schedule for release December 2 – 12 days before the FOMC makes a decision on interest rates.

Hear Mark Lieberman every Friday morning at 6:20 am on The Morning Briefing on POTUS on Sirius-XM 124.

You can follow Mark Lieberman on Twitter at @foxeconomics.