The U.S. added 250,000 jobs in October and unemployment remained steady at 3.7 percent, marking the 97th straight month of economic expansion as Americans prepare to head to the polls for the midterm elections.
October's figures, released Friday morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, follow a disappointing jobs gain for the month of September — the lowest so far this year, at just 134,000.
October’s strong number absorbs the weather-related impact of Hurricane Michael, which hit Florida and Georgia early in the month and displaced thousands of workers, and September’s Hurricane Florence, which depressed the jobs figure for that month but resulted in a bounce-back for October as workers returned to their positions and storm recovery jobs were added.
The jobs report is the last snapshot of the economy before the midterm elections next week and adds to a slew of healthy economic data released by the government in the past few days.
Consumer spending, which drives 70 percent of economic output, is at an 18-year high, according to figures announced on Tuesday. Spending grew by 4 percent in the last quarter, its strongest since 2014.
"Consumers do not foresee the economy losing steam anytime soon," said Lynn Franco, an economist for the Conference Board, which calculates the Consumer Confidence Index.
GDP hit 3.5 percent last quarter, the Commerce Department said last week, and wages jumped 0.9 percent in the third quarter to their highest level in a decade, according to government data released Wednesday.
"We saw better-than-expected payroll gains at 250,000 jobs, surging wages, and increased labor force participation," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com. "That’s a kind of an economic trinity that we haven’t often seen."
However, the tightening labor market has already begun to strain certain sectors of the economy. Small business hiring has grown by just 1.2 percent this year, versus 2.5 percent for larger corporations, according to data from payroll processor ADP.
"Small companies are finding it harder to compete for workers against larger companies that are able to offer more competitive wages and stronger benefits,” said ADP's Ahu Yildirmaz.