Unemployment at 9-Year Low, but There's a Downside

Drops to 4.6%
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 2, 2016 8:12 AM CST
FILE - In this Wednesday Nov. 2, 2016, file photo, job seekers attend a New York Department of Citywide Administrative Services job fair, in New York. On Friday, Dec. 2, 2016, the U.S. government issues...   (Bebeto Matthews)

(Newser) – The US unemployment rate fell to a nine-year low of 4.6% last month, though not for the best reason: Many of the unemployed gave up looking for work, reports the AP. Employers added a solid 178,000 jobs in November, nearly matching the average monthly gains this year. Those gains point to the steady economic growth that President-elect Donald Trump is poised to inherit. Average hourly pay slipped, however, after a solid gain the previous month. Pay has increased at only a modest pace in the past year.

The report's mixed signals illustrate the challenges facing Trump: On the surface, steady job gains and a low unemployment rate suggest the economy is healthy. But weak pay increases and fewer Americans working or looking for work point to longer-term challenges. Fewer than 60% of adults have jobs—3 percentage points lower than when the Great Recession began in late 2007. In part, that trend reflects retirements by the nation's many baby boomers. But it also means hiring hasn't kept up with population growth. What's more, the Wall Street Journal notes that the unemployment rate probably can't drop much lower, given that anything below 5% is "historically low." (Read more unemployment rate stories.)

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