Amid strong job gains, wages are still flat
WASHINGTON - Even amid some healthy job growth last month, economists are pointing out that average hourly wages didn't budge.
It's seen as a worrisome sign amid an otherwise upbeat employment report for September. Employers added 248,000 jobs -- well above the 215,000 that economists were expecting. And the burst of hiring helped drive down the unemployment rate to 5.9 percent. It's the lowest rate in more than six years.
Chris Williamson, the chief economist at Markit, says the stagnant wages will worry policy-makers -- who will fear that households are going to spend less if borrowing costs start to rise. He says that could snuff out the economic recovery.
Today's report is expected to intensify debate at the Federal Reserve over how close the job market is to full health. Fed Chair Janet Yellen says she is tracking many other gauges besides the unemployment rate.
For example, there were 7.1 million people working part-time jobs last month even though they would prefer full-time work. That figure is up from just 4.6 million before the recession.
And there are 3 million people who have been out of work for more than six months. That figure has declined steadily in the past three years but is still more than double its pre-recession total.
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