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November 6, 2017 10:15 AM, EST
Unemployment Drops to 4.1%, Trucking Employment Flat
Truck Driver TruckPR/Flickr

The unemployment rate fell 0.1 percentage point in October to 4.1%, the lowest level since December 2000, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average earnings rose 2.4% compared to the same period a year ago.

Business payrolls rose by 261,000, the largest gain in 15 months, as employers began to recover from the three hurricanes that battered parts of the country in September, according to the report. The number of unemployed people has dropped by 1.1 million since January. The three-month average in jobs created was 162,000, according to Bloomberg.

Average hourly earnings have gone up just 2.4% from October a year ago, and much of the increase has occurred in high-wage industries like banking, law and technology, according to Bloomberg. Bankers have seen a rise in wages of 3.1% in the last 12 months in comparison to 1.7% for middle-wage sectors and 2.5% for low-wage sectors.

Occupations that appear to have the best wage gains are those that require unique skills, can’t be or are difficult to automate and can’t be easily replaced with cheaper labor abroad, Bloomberg reports. Durable goods manufacturing and brick-and-mortar retail trade are industries with stagnant wage growth.

In the trucking industry, for-hire trucking employment dropped by a scant 100 jobs after a robust September in which 2,000 workers were hired. Through October, for-hire trucking payrolls have increased by a net 8,600, or 1.3%. For-hire trucking payrolls have increased by 13,100 jobs since October 2016.

The warehousing and storage sector saw a rise of 3,100 jobs from September to October, and an increase of more than 28,000 jobs since October a year ago.

Despite the low unemployment rate, the numbers were a disappointment to some, as analysts had forecast a payrolls increase of 313,000.

American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello said the full economic effect of the hurricanes is evolving, and predicted construction jobs could rise as rebuilding takes hold in areas where the storms brought destruction. Construction employment rose a modest 11,000 in October, the same amount as September.

“Some might look at the jobs gain as slightly disappointing, I would caution against that,” notes Costello in his Weekly Economic Recap. “We still don’t know the impact of those storms on the return of workers. Additionally, once the rebuilding phase commences more fully in Houston, Florida, and even Puerto Rico, expect solid gains in a few sectors, including construction.”

Costello believes the generally positive report from the Labor Department indicates the Federal Reserve will announce a hike in interest rates during its next meeting on Dec. 13.