Employers added 263,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday — the slowest month of hiring in 18 months, showing the red-hot job market is cooling slightly as the Federal Reserve hits the brakes on the economy.
The unemployment rate fell to a 50-year low of 3.5% in September as businesses continued to hire from a shrinking pool of workers. The labor participation rate fell slightly, indicating fewer people are working or looking for a job.
While hiring is slowing, investors and economists were looking for evidence that the Federal Reserve’s interest rate hikes would have had a bigger impact. Instead, the data indicate that the labor market remains tight, with the jobless rate dipping to a five-decade low.
“Today’s jobs report indicates the job market is chugging along, albeit at a slower pace, as available jobs still outnumber job seekers 1.7 to 1, and employer demand for talent remains elevated,” Cody Harker, head of data and insights at Bayard Advertising, a recruiting marketing firm, said in a note.
The biggest gains were in leisure and hospitality and health care.
The job market has been weakening for the past few months, with the three-month average job gains shrinking from 530,000 a month at the start of the year to 370,000 today. Job openings fell by more than a million in August, to the lowest level since June 2021.
Wage growth is also slowing, with average hourly earnings growing 5% over the last 12 months.
Stock markets plummet
Still, available jobs far outnumber job-seekers, and the job market remains tight even as the Fed hikes interest rates.
Stock futures fell on the jobs report, with the Dow plunging 2% and the S&P 500 falling 1.5%, indicating that hiring remains too strong for investors’ tastes. The strong monthly hiring figure mean the Fed is likely to keep hiking interest rates sharply as it moves to slow down hiring in its bid to squash inflation.
“The 263,000 gain in non-farm payrolls in September is another signal that labour market conditions are cooling. But with the unemployment rate dropping back to 3.5% the report is unlikely to significantly alter the Fed’s view that the labour market is “out of balance,” economists at Capital Economics said in a note.