US employers added a decent 161,000 jobs in October, and the unemployment rate dipped to 4.9% from 5%, reports the AP. It was the final major report on a lukewarm but durable economy before Americans choose a new president next week. The Labor Department said Friday that average hourly pay took a big step higher last month, rising 10 cents an hour to an average $25.92. That's 2.8% higher than a year ago and is the biggest 12-month increase in seven years. The pickup in hourly pay follows a substantial increase last year in earnings for the typical household. The economy appears to be finally delivering widespread raises after years of sluggish pay gains.
"While this report is unlikely to change investor opinions about a December rate increase from the Federal Reserve, it has helped make them more sure it will happen, barring any future developments," notes a blogger at the Wall Street Journal. Despite the solid unemployment news, the overall economy is growing at the slowest pace of any in a recovery since World War II. Growth picked up to a 2.9% annual rate in the July-September quarter, the government has estimated, much faster than the 1.1% pace for the first half of the year. But most analysts foresee only modest expansion in the October-December quarter, leaving growth at an anemic rate of about 1.8% for all of 2016. (Read more unemployment rate stories.)