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The economy added 228,000 jobs in November, unemployment at 4.1 percent

Holidays bring hiring. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

The economy added 228,000 jobs in November, slightly outpacing analysts' expectations, and unemployment held steady at 4.1 percent, federal economists reported Friday.

Workers’ average hourly earnings, meanwhile, grew by 5 cents in November — part of an overall increase of 2.5 percent since last November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“These are really strong numbers, which is pretty exciting, since this is our first clean read after the volatility associated with the hurricanes,” said Josh Wright, chief economist at iCIMS, a hiring software firm.

Despite the wave of new positions, however, American workers still aren't getting much of a raise, he added.

“Wage growth was the big disappointment,” Wright said. “It was lower than we expected. Everyone is scratching their heads.”

Dan North, chief economist at Euler Hermes, an international credit insurance company, said the rising demand for workers at firms across the country lately isn't enough to significantly increase paychecks.

“Workers should get a share in that increase,” he said, but “we also have labor coming back in off the sidelines.”

Productivity growth remains low, he said, inching up at an average annual rate of 1.2 percent over the last eight years, compared with its historic rate of 2.1 percent from 1974 to 2017, government numbers show.

Plus, the jobs growing most quickly in the United States offer some of the nation’s lowest wages. The home health aide industry, paying workers about $22,000 per year, will produce an estimated 425,600 positions by 2026.

President Trump and Republicans on Capitol Hill have said they hope to pass sweeping changes to the tax code by the end of December, a move they believe will create more well-paying jobs and supercharge economic growth. Lowering the corporate tax rate, they assert, will inspire firms to invest more on American soil.

Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West, said it’s tough to draw a link between tax cuts and economic growth.

“Historically, when you see tax cuts, there’s been no strong correlation there,” he said. “In my view, if I’m a CEO and I’m seeing tax cuts for my organization, I might give those tax cuts back to shareholders.”

Hurricane damage skewed the past two employment reports, with the storms temporarily pushing hundreds of thousands of workers, particularly in the service sector, out of their jobs. They largely flocked back in October, accounting for much of the month’s larger-than-usual job growth (261,000).

November’s data might be the first report since the storms to escape their impact on the numbers, multiple economists said.

Manufacturing continued to grow last month, adding 31,000 jobs: 8,000 in machinery, 7,000 in metal products, 4,000 in computer goods and 4,000 in plastic and rubber wares. That’s on top of 24,000 new manufacturing positions created in October after no growth in September.

Healthcare also showed strong expansion, the government data show. Ambulatory health care services, which includes doctors’ offices and outpatient recovery centers, saw an increase of 25,000 jobs.

Construction jobs surged by 23,000 in November, thanks in part to the rebuilding efforts in hurricane-devastated parts of Texas and Florida.

“November’s jobs report shows steady growth fueled by optimism about the pro-growth, pro-jobs policies being advanced by President Trump’s Administration,” Secretary of Labor Alexander Acosta said in a statement Friday. “Since January, the economy has added 1.7 million jobs.”

The BLS economists also revised their reports on jobs growth in September and October, part of a standard practice as they get more information from businesses.

Earlier reports slightly underestimated growth in September and overestimated growth in October, they found, and the two changes basically canceled each other out.

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