Updated on November 4 at 4:36 p.m. ET
With a release just days before the U.S. presidential election, the hype for the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report—a key economic indicator and a snapshot of employment in America—has been unusually high. On Friday morning, the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy added 161,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate dropped slightly to 4.9 percent—a performance that just missed expectations. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal were expecting a modest 173,000 jobs to be added.
The numbers are indicative of steady economic growth: The unemployment rate has been hovering around 5 percent for most of the year—a rate that’s considered healthy by many economists—and the number of jobs added in the past months is well above the threshold of 100,000, the number of jobs Federal Reserve Chairwoman Janet Yellen said the U.S. economy needs to create monthly in order to absorb new entrants to the labor market. The U.S. economy has been adding jobs for 73 consecutive months.
The Department of Labor’s jobs reports come with positive revisions to previous months’ reports: Both August and September numbers were revised up—from 167,000 to 176,000, and from 156,000 to 191,000, respectively. Combined, the two months added 44,000 more jobs than originally estimated, bringing the three-month average to a 176,000 a month. Although the revisions are undoubtedly favorable, job-growth figures have dropped since the summer when two expectation-smashing reports brought the three-month average to 232,000 jobs added per month.