This morning’s employment situation release showed the economy added 228,000 jobs in November—bringing the three month average up to 170,000, which is likely more reflective of the underlying rate of job growth. Either way, this is more than enough to absorb new entrants in the labor market and keep up with population growth. The unemployment rate, meanwhile, held steady at 4.1 percent. The prime-age employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) ticked up somewhat (+0.2 percentage points), though the overall EPOP fell slightly (-0.1 percentage points), year-over-year nominal wages grew 2.5 percent.
It’s important to note that the headline numbers are still missing the substantial number of workers who would be working or looking for work if opportunities were stronger. Nominal wage growth, meanwhile, has still not picked up and is still clearly not creating inflationary pressures. The Federal Reserve should keep this in mind when it meets later this month. The Fed is widely expected to raise interest rates, but this report, while solid, indicates that it is too soon to do so. The economy needs to get back to full employment for all workers—young and old, black and white—to feel the positive effects of a growing economy with better opportunities and faster wage growth.