September 24, 2020

What to Expect From the November Jobs Report

The labor force participation rate inched up through most of the spring and fall, driven in part by an increase in women ages 25 to 34 getting jobs or looking for work. Over the last year, nearly 1.7 million more people joined the ranks of workers.

As Michael Gapen, chief United States economist at Barclays, points out, a bounce in participation is the equivalent of a bounce in productivity. “Progress is coming in a way that’s not inflationary,” he said, and it makes it easier for the Federal Reserve to hold off increasing its benchmark interest rate. October’s participation rate was 63.3 percent. Look for even small increases, especially among 25-to-54 year-olds, who are considered to be in their prime working years.

Worries about the economy seemed to have peaked this summer, but the manufacturing picture is still clouded. Job growth in the sector has been weak. Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the online employment market site ZipRecruiter, said manufacturing postings have increased overall, but they differ radically by type. Listings for computer-related manufacturing jobs are strong, for example, but automotive listings have been weak.

The 40-day strike at G.M. and disruption in the aerospace industry stemming from the crash of two Boeing airplanes have also made analyzing underlying economic trends harder. Other measures of manufacturing activity have also provided conflicting signals.

President Trump stoked trade tensions this week when he said he would impose new tariffs on steel and aluminum from Brazil and Argentina; suggested that his administration’s feud with China could continue for another year; and threatened European allies with new import taxes.

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