Job growth was stronger than expected in October despite Federal Reserve interest rate increases aimed at slowing what is still a strong labor market.
Nonfarm payrolls grew by 261,000 for the month while the unemployment rate moved higher to 3.7%, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Those payroll numbers were better than the Dow Jones estimate for 205,000 more jobs but worse than the 3.5% estimate for the unemployment rate.
Average hourly earnings grew 4.7% from a year ago and 0.4% for the month, indicating that wage growth is still likely to pressure inflation. The yearly growth met expectations while the monthly gain was slightly ahead of the 0.3% estimate.
The new figures come as the Fed is on a campaign to bring down inflation running at an annual rate of 8.2%, according to one government gauge. Earlier this week, the central bank approved its fourth consecutive 0.75 percentage point interest rate increase, taking benchmark borrowing rates to a range of 3.75%-4%.
Those hikes are aimed in part at cooling a labor market where there are still nearly two jobs for every available unemployed worker. Even with the reduced pace, job growth has been well ahead of its pre-pandemic level, in which monthly payroll growth averaged 164,000 in 2019.
However, there have been signs of cracks lately.
Amazon on Thursday said it is pausing hiring for roles in its corporate workforce, an announcement that came after the online retail behemoth said it was halting new hires for its corporate retail jobs.
Also, Apple said it will be freezing new hires except for research and development. Ride hailing company Lyft reported it will be slicing 13% of its workforce, while online payments company Stripe said it is cutting 14% of its workers.
Fed Chairman Jerome Powell on Wednesday characterized the labor market as “overheated” and said the current pace of wage gains is “well above” what would be consistent with the central bank’s 2% inflation target.
“Demand is still strong,” said Amy Glaser, senior vice president of business operations at Adecco, a staffing and recruiting firm. “Everyone is anticipating at some point that we’ll start to see a shift in demand. But so far we’re continuing to see the labor market defying the law of supply and demand.”
Glaser said demand is especially strong in warehousing, retail and hospitality, the sector hardest hit by the pandemic.