U.S. employers maintained a strong pace of hiring in October and boosted wages for workers, which could effectively seal the case for a December interest rate increase from the Federal Reserve.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 161,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. August and September data was revised to show 44,000 more jobs created than previously reported.
The unemployment rate fell one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.9 percent, in part as people dropped out the labor force.
The closely watched employment report was published four days before the Nov. 8 presidential election. It came on the heels of data last week showing an acceleration in economic growth in the third quarter. But economists see little impact from the report on an increasingly bitter and divisive campaign.
“There is so much noise out there right now, everyone is screaming from the rooftops. I just don’t know that any particular data point is going to have a great bearing on the election, in and of itself,” said Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Though the U.S. central bank is expected to increase borrowing costs next month, that decision will likely depend on the outcome of Tuesday’s election. The tight race between Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and her Republican rival Donald Trump has rattled financial markets.
Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 175,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate falling one-tenth of a percentage point to 4.9 percent.
The Fed on Wednesday left interest rates unchanged but said its monetary policy-setting committee “judges that the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has continued to strengthen.” It lifted its benchmark overnight interest rate last December for the first time in nearly a decade.
“The election could still derail the Fed’s plans, particularly if a very close result led to one or both candidates contesting it via the courts,” said Paul Ashworth, chief economist at Capital Economics in Toronto.