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U.S. Employers Added 128,000 Jobs In October

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

And now let's shift our attention to the economy. U.S.A. rocks - that is part of a tweet from President Trump. He was reacting to a better-than-expected jobs report. U.S. employers added 128,000 jobs last month. Wall Street was also cheered by the report. NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Forecasters were expecting much gloomier news about the job market, in part because of the General Motors strike, which idled tens of thousands of workers. The UAW approved a new contract with GM a week ago. Randy Freeman of Local 652 says his members are glad to be back at work.

RANDY FREEMAN: We've got a couple of stamping plants, they went back Saturday. And the rest of them all started on Monday.

HORSLEY: The GM strike did put a dent in the jobs number, but that was more than offset by strong hiring elsewhere. Economist Sarah House of Wells Fargo Securities notes job gains for August and September were also revised up.

SARAH HOUSE: Employers are still out there hiring. More people are collecting a paycheck.

HORSLEY: U.S. factories are still feeling the effects of the president's trade war. Manufacturing activity declined in October for the third month in a row. The decline was smaller than in September, but Timothy Fiore of the Institute for Supply Management says factory managers are still nervous.

TIMOTHY FIORE: There's a wariness around the tariff issue. Even if the tariffs get lifted, the uncertainty that they could come back is probably going to freeze investment until we have some better understanding of what 2021 looks like.

HORSLEY: Manufacturers are especially vulnerable to the trade war and a slowing demand in overseas markets. Businesses that cater to domestic customers, such as hospitality and health care, are doing better. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says he and his colleagues are watching for a slowdown there, but so far, they're not seeing it.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JEROME POWELL: Consumers are doing well and are focused on the good job market and rising incomes, and that's their principal focus. That is the thing that's pushing the economy forward, and it doesn't seem to have been affected so far by weakness in the other areas.

HORSLEY: With lots of people working, consumers do have money to spend. Over the last 12 months, average hourly wages have increased by 3%. Unemployment inched up in October, but only because hundreds of thousands of new people joined the workforce. While the overall economy is slowing, employers' demand for workers is still going strong.

Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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