Wall Street soars after economy added robust 266,000 jobs in November

The monthly jobs total was boosted by 50,000 returning workers from General Motors who had been on strike in October.
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General Motors employees work on the chassis line in Flint, Mich., on June 12, 2019.Jake May / AP file

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By Lucy Bayly

The economy added 266,000 jobs last month, partly boosted by returning workers from General Motors who had been on strike in October. The blockbuster November number was much higher than economists' expectations of 187,000.

Unemployment ticked back down to a historic 3.5 percent — the lowest rate since 1969 — and wage growth rose to an average hourly rate of 3.1 percent, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Wall Street reacted favorably to the blowout numbers: The Dow Jones Industrial Average soared by 220 points at the opening bell, with the S&P 500 gaining 0.72 percent and the Nasdaq composite index rising by 0.8 percent.

October's monthly jobs total of 128,000 was revised upwards to 156,000. Those numbers both reflected almost 50,000 absent GM workers not included in the jobs count due to their participation in a six-week strike organized by the United Automobile Workers. November's data also includes around 12,000 people additionally affected by the strike.

Prior to Friday's figures, the economy had added 1.67 million jobs so far in 2019, the lowest total in the past nine years. The average monthly total for 2019 was at 167,000. While nowhere near as robust as last year's monthly average of 233,000, it is well above the 100,000 required per month to keep pace with growth in the working population.

President Donald Trump tweeted his general approval of the economy before Friday's data was released, writing, "Stock Markets Up Record Numbers. For this year alone, Dow up 18.65%, S&P up 24.36%, Nasdaq Composite up 29.17%. 'It’s the economy, stupid.'”

Earlier this week, the private payroll processor ADP reported a disappointing total for November, with a paltry 67,000 jobs added. That number fell far short of economist estimates of 150,000, and represents the slowest private-sector growth since May.

That lower jobs number also reflects continued uncertainties due to Trump's monthslong trade war with Beijing. That tit-for-tat battle over intellectual property rights and trade imbalance has led to stalled investment, reduced capital spending, and reluctance in hiring among multinational American businesses and those with exposure to China.

Economists noted that November's government figures, while positive, do not completely alleviate concerns of an impending recession.

"These strong numbers are another proof point that the economy still has some kick," said Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group. "Still, while these recent jobs reports have been a source of optimism, the economy’s long-term outlook remains murky. The broader labor trend is still lurking up on wage growth, tariffs have been squeezing business outlooks, and consumer confidence has lowered over the past few months."