Today’s jobs report sends mixed messages: Unemployment rate drops to 3.5%, with modest hiring and wage growth.

Today’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics has some good and not-so-good news about the economy. Some takeaways:

The unemployment rate declined to 3.5 percent in September, and total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 136,000, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment in health care and in professional and business services continued to trend up…

In September, the unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 3.5 percent. The last time the rate was this low was in December 1969, when it also was 3.5 percent…

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 136,000 in September. Job growth has averaged 161,000 per month thus far in 2019, compared with an average monthly gain of 223,000 in 2018. 

The report revised upwards estimates for the previous two months.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for July was revised up by 7,000 from +159,000 to +166,000, and the change for August was revised up by 38,000 from +130,000 to +168,000. With these revisions, employment gains in July and August combined were 45,000 more than previously reported.

Calculated Risk offers this initial assessment.

The headline jobs number was below expectations, however the previous two months were revised up.  The headline unemployment rate declined to 3.5%; the lowest since 1969.  However, wage growth was below expectations.

This was mixed jobs report.  

The economy added 1.419 million jobs through September 2019 ex-Census, down from 1.979 million jobs during the same period of 2018 (although 2018 will be revised down with benchmark revision to be released in February 2020).   So job growth has slowed.

From the Wall Street Journal:

U.S. employers added jobs at a steady pace last month, and the unemployment rate hit a 50-year low, signaling the labor market continues to provide opportunities for Americans in search of work despite a broader economic slowdown.

…Meanwhile, average hourly earnings climbed 2.9% from September 2018, a slowdown from previous months but still higher than inflation.

Warnings from The Street.

“This is as good as it’s likely to get until the trade war is resolved,” said Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics. “Leading indicators, which warned clearly of the slowdown in job growth over the past few months, now point clearly to the trend slowing to just 50K or so by the end of the year.”

“Overall, these data offer something for everyone; bulls can point to unemployment, bears will highlight (Average hourly earnings), and the unpersuaded can point to the OK payroll number. But this is an evolving situation, and the next clear move in the data will be downshift in job growth,” he added.

Earlier this week we reported on the decline in a key manufacturing index, a disappointing ADP jobs report, and persistent challenges facing small business employers. Still, Washington continues to outperform the nation, an enviable position which we should not take for granted. Given all that, today’s report should be weighted more on the ‘good’ than on the ‘not-so-good’ side.