The government will provide the latest snapshot of the labor market on Friday, revealing whether employers are continuing to pull back from hiring — and if so, to what extent.
Forecasters surveyed by FactSet expect the Labor Department to report that U.S. employers added about 250,000 jobs last month, in line with a modest slowdown from August’s gain of 315,000 jobs. That would probably be welcome news for officials at the Federal Reserve, who are raising interest rates in the hopes of gradually cooling the labor market — and with it, inflation — without a spike in unemployment.
Economists and policymakers are also monitoring two other bits of data that will be included in the report: average hourly earnings, which have showed signs of slowing, and the labor force participation rate, which ticked up in August.
The Fed’s next rate decision is scheduled for Nov. 2, and officials have emphasized that the central bank will be watching the jobs data closely as they determine how aggressive to be. The report is also the second-to-last before November’s midterm elections, and both parties are almost certain to seize on the data to make the case that they are the best stewards of the economy.
There have been some recent signs that employers are reining in hiring. The number of job openings decreased in August, to 10.1 million from 11.2 million in July. Filings for unemployment last week rose modestly.
But the labor market has persistently confounded economists, who have been predicting a more consistent slowdown for months. While there were signs that hiring was tapering off in August, the July report showed a surprising acceleration.
“The labor market has been a Ferrari the last year and a half,” said Nick Bunker, the director of North American economic research for the career site Indeed. “It’s slowing down but still moving very, very quickly.”
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