Economy Adds Disappointing 155,000 Jobs; Retail Holds Steady

Employers in the United States saw disappointing job growth numbers as the economy contended with a volatile stock market and renewed fears from the country’s trade war with China.

Although unemployment held steady at its 49-year low of 3.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the U.S. added only 155,000 jobs in November, marred by widespread worker shortages and subsequent slow hiring. The figures were short of the 199,000 jobs expected by Wall Street.

The numbers were just as bleak in the retail sector, which changed little with a gain of 18,000 jobs. A boost in general merchandise and miscellaneous store retailers categories — with 39,000 jobs and 10,000, respectively — was offset by declines in clothing and clothing accessories stores (14,000 jobs lost), electronics and appliance stores (minus 11,000) as well as the sporting goods stores division (also a decline of 11,000).

The labor force participation rate stayed the same at 62.9 percent last month, with average hourly earnings rising by 6 cents to $27.35. Over the year, those earnings have increased by 81 cents, or 3.1 percent.

The weaker-than-anticipated numbers come after monthly job increases that have averaged more than 200,000. It also follows a November report from the Labor Department that saw wages and salaries soaring to their highest level in a decade. Such numbers could encourage the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates for a fourth time.

Additionally, investors are concerned about a break in the truce between the U.S. and China following the arrest of Chinese telecom giant Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou in Canada at the former’s behest. Retailers had breathed a sigh of relief after President Donald Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping agreed to a 90-day ceasefire in the trade war during the weekend’s G20 summit in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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