US employers added just 134,000 jobs in September, the fewest in a year and short of the 180,000 forecast, reports the Wall Street Journal, though the figure was likely lowered by Hurricane Florence. Even so, the unemployment rate fell to 3.7%, the lowest level since 1969. Florence struck North and South Carolina and closed thousands of businesses. As a result, a jobs category that includes restaurants, hotels, and casinos lost ground for the first time since last September, when Hurricane Harvey had a similar effect. Average hourly pay increased just 2.8% from a year earlier in September, reports the AP, one tick below the yearly gain in August. September extended the longest streak of hiring on record, with millions of Americans having gone back to work since the Great Recession. The September gain extended an 8½-year streak of monthly job growth.
Measures of consumer confidence are at or near their highest levels in 18 years. Retailers have begun scrambling to hire enough workers for what's expected to be a robust holiday shopping season. A survey of service-sector firms, including banks, hotels, and health care providers, found that they are expanding at their fastest pace in a decade. Households are saving nearly 7% of their incomes—more than twice the savings rate before the recession. During the April-June quarter, the US economy expanded at a 4.2% annual rate, the best in four years. Economists have forecast that growth reached a 3% to 3.5% annual rate in the July-September quarter. The economy does show some weak spots, particularly existing home sales and auto sales.
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