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US Jobs Data to Give Economic Clues    12/06 06:15

   Friday's November jobs report will provide insight into whether steady 
hiring remains a source of strength for the U.S. economy even as the Trump 
administration's trade conflicts have heightened uncertainties for employers.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- Friday's November jobs report will provide insight into 
whether steady hiring remains a source of strength for the U.S. economy even as 
the Trump administration's trade conflicts have heightened uncertainties for 
employers.

   Economists have forecast that the government will report that employers 
remained confident enough to add a solid 187,000 jobs, according to data 
provider FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to remain 3.6%, near a 
half-century low.

   Steady job growth tends to reassure consumers that the economy is expanding 
and that their jobs and incomes remain secure, which, in turn, typically helps 
fuel spending. Consumer spending has become an even more important driver of 
growth because the Trump trade conflicts have reduced exports and led many 
businesses to cut spending.

   Renewed concerns that trade will continue to hamper the U.S. economy drove 
stock prices lower earlier this week, after President Donald Trump said he was 
willing to wait until after the 2020 elections to strike a preliminary trade 
agreement with China. With the two sides still haggling, the administration is 
set to impose 15% tariffs on an additional $160 billion of Chinese imports 
beginning Dec. 15.

   Both sides have since suggested that the negotiations are making progress, 
but there is still no sign of a resolution.

   Hiring in the United States has remained mostly healthy this year despite 
the trade war. Even so, Trump's combative use of import taxes, combined with 
retaliatory tariffs by China and Europe, has stalled job growth in 
manufacturing.

   Employers have added 176,000 jobs, on average, in the past three months. 
That's enough to absorb new job seekers as a result of population growth and to 
potentially lower the unemployment rate. Still, the monthly average job growth 
is down from an average of 223,000 last year.

   Some temporary factors could distort November's jobs data. An autoworkers' 
strike at General Motors that ended in October artificially lowered that 
month's job gain by about 41,000 to 128,000. Likewise, the return of those 
employees to work should increase November's job gain by roughly the same 
amount.

   Many economists also expect that unseasonably cold weather in November might 
have slowed hiring in weather-sensitive industries, principally construction 
and restaurants and hotels.

   And the holiday shopping season has begun later this year compared with 
previous years, a fact that some economists think might have delayed hiring by 
retailers and shipping firms last month.

   With tariffs hobbling manufacturing, the jobs report will also likely 
underscore a bifurcation of the job market: Service industries --- finance, 
engineering, health care and the like --- are hiring at a solid pace, while 
manufacturers, miners and builders are posting weak numbers.

   Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, a tax advisory and consulting firm, 
notes that services companies have added 1.4 million jobs this year, compared 
with just 2,000 for manufacturing.

   Despite the raging trade tensions, most analysts say they remain hopeful 
about the economy and the job market. The economy grew at a 2.1% annual rate in 
the July-September quarter, and the annual pace is thought to be slowing to 
roughly 1.5% to 2% in the final three months of the year --- sluggish but far 
from recessionary.

   Consumer confidence has slipped in recent months but remains at a decent 
level, helping boost sales of expensive purchases, such as autos and appliances.

   With inflation surprisingly low, the Federal Reserve has cut its benchmark 
short-term interest rate three times this year. Those rate cuts have helped 
support the housing market. Sales of existing homes have risen nearly 5% in the 
past year. Sales of new homes have soared by one-third.


(KR)

 
 
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