The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported payroll employment expanded by 211 thousand in November and revisions added 35 thousand to estimates for the prior two months. The household survey showed strong gains in both the labor force (273 thousand) and persons employed (244 thousand). The unemployment rate held steady at 5.0%.
Payroll gains are back on track with earlier strength in the year (averaging 210 thousand per month), if a little soft compared to 2014 (260 thousand monthly average). The unemployment rate, at 5.0%, is well within what most economists consider the “right” range (NAIRU). Levels of involuntary part-time workers (reduced hours) and workers marginally attached to the labor force (willing, but not currently looking) remain elevated, but are well off earlier peaks.
Policy makers at the Federal Reserve weren’t looking for rocket-like gains in this report, just no disasters; the cumulative gains in the recovery are sufficient. The beginning of monetary policy normalization, liftoff, is likely at the December meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC).