November 6, 2017 2:15 PM, EST

Unemployment Drops to 4.1%; Trucking Employment Flat

Employers Begin to Recover From Barrage of Hurricanes

The national 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 with the same period a year ago.

Business payrolls rose by 261,000, the largest gain in 15 months, as employers began to recover from Hurricane Harvey, which battered Texas, and hurricanes Irma and Maria, which ravaged Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in September. 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 News.

In the trucking industry, for-hire trucking employment dropped by 100 jobs after a robust September in which 2,000 workers were hired, American Trucking Associations Chief Economist Bob Costello said in his Weekly Economic Recap. 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.

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,” Costello noted. “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 meeting Dec. 13.

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.

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 such as banking, law and technology, Bloomberg said. Bankers have seen a rise in wages of 3.1% in the past 12 months compared with 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 said. Durable goods manufacturing and brick-and-mortar retail trade are industries with stagnant wage growth.