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'Blockbuster' Jobs Report Shows 321,000 Added To Payrolls

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You might call a movie a blockbuster, but rarely is a monthly jobs report described that way. This is one of those rare times. Blockbuster is among the many positive adjectives economists are using to talk about this jobs report. The data shows employers adding 321,000 new jobs to payrolls in November. That's the strongest monthly performance in nearly three years. NPR's John Ydstie has details.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Nairman Behravesh, chief economist at IHS Global Insight, joined the chorus of praise for this report.

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NAIRMAN BEHRAVESH: Overall, this is a broad-based very positive report.

YDSTIE: Broad-based in that all industry sectors saw solid growth -from construction, to manufacturing, to business services. Behravesh says the big November number probably includes some holiday hiring and may overstate the trend, which he thinks is closer to 240,000. That's about the average monthly job growth this year.

BEHRAVESH: Which is the strongest in 15 years. So that's really good news for the economy. It looks like we've moved up to sort of the next level of growth.

YDSTIE: The good jobs report produced good cheer at the White House where President Obama highlighted another data point.

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PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: Over the last four years, we've put more people back to work than Europe, Japan and all other industrialized, advanced countries combined.

YDSTIE: Obama also said more progress needs to be made. In fact, 9 million Americans remain unemployed and another 7 million work part-time but want full-time work. 37-year-old Larry Lavadore from Sacramento is one of them. He's working part-time at Home Depot.

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LARRY LAVADORE: I've been looking for full-time work probably about a year, but I took the Home Depot part-time as kind of desperation just to get some income.

YDSTIE: For 13 years, Lavadore worked in the wholesale electrical supply business - including as a store manager. Now, he says, he's barely making it.

LAVADORE: I actually have some friends helping me out - just moved in with them recently - trying to make sure I don't become homeless.

YDSTIE: Today's data did show more workers joining the labor force, suggesting they're more optimistic they'll find a job. But that kept the unemployment rate from falling. It remained at 5.8 percent in September. Finally, today's report showed a welcome uptick in wage growth. Sluggish wage growth has dampened enthusiasm about the current recovery. Behravesh says the November bump is a good sign.

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BEHRAVESH: This is very encouraging news in terms of stronger growth in wages than we've seen in a while. We have to be careful about not extrapolating this, you know, one month does not a trend make.

YDSTIE: If it is a trend that holds, Behravesh says it could convince the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates a bit before next summer - as is currently expected. John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

John Ydstie
John Ydstie has covered the economy, Wall Street, and the Federal Reserve at NPR for nearly three decades. Over the years, NPR has also employed Ydstie's reporting skills to cover major stories like the aftermath of Sept. 11, Hurricane Katrina, the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal, and the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. He was a lead reporter in NPR's coverage of the global financial crisis and the Great Recession, as well as the network's coverage of President Trump's economic policies. Ydstie has also been a guest host on the NPR news programs Morning Edition, All Things Considered, and Weekend Edition. Ydstie stepped back from full-time reporting in late 2018, but plans to continue to contribute to NPR through part-time assignments and work on special projects.