Job gains continued in September with a solid 263,000 net new additions. More Americans are working now than ever before, with 153 million on the payroll. The unemployment rate is tight at 3.5%, but the employment-to-population ratio is at 60.1% compared to 61.2% right before the onset of the pandemic.
Wages rose by 5% to an average of $32.40 per hour. The workers in leisure and hospitality received a significant boost of 7.9% to $20.30, reflecting more acute shortages in this sector. However, higher pay does not mean an improvement in the standard of living because consumer prices are rising at 8%. At the same time, the bond market is not liking it because it now expects more aggressive interest rate increases by the Fed. Mortgage rates likewise will test new highs.
Construction and general contractor jobs also expanded, though these lean more toward the commercial building of warehouses and apartments and less building of single-family homes. The traditional office-using jobs in the professional business service sector boomed, with 46,000 monthly net gains and over one million in a year. Yet office vacancy rates remain high, and very few new office buildings are being started. That means retail shops in the suburbs will do well, as workers are at home and not downtown. Though there has been some return of housing demand closer to the city recently, the long-term trend could be in the outer suburbs.