Unemployment rate in US falls to lowest in 17 years

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The unemployment rate in the United States fell to its lowest level in nearly 17 years in October while job creation resumed climbing after the two late-summer hurricanes, the US Labour Department reported on Friday.

Analysts said the rebound was smaller than expected but upward revisions to job creation in the prior months meant the storms had caused less damage than originally feared, making for an upbeat report.

The White House hailed the outcome, saying the Trump administration’s economic agenda was bearing fruit.

However, the report also showed a shrinking labour force and confirmed job creation in 2017 has lagged behind last year.

The US jobless rate fell to 4.1 per cent, down a tenth of a point from September, the lowest the US economy has seen since December 2000.

Employers added 261,000 net new positions as businesses reopened in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, although economists had forecast a rebound of 300,000 new jobs.

But the data for September turned out not be as bad as initially reported, with 18,000 new jobs created, rather than a loss of 33,000 positions. Together with the upward revision for August, an additional 90,000 jobs were added for those two months.

The results generally showed US labour markets in good health, easily bouncing back from the storms that idled the US energy hub in southeast Texas and forced millions of Floridians to flee their homes.

“With nearly 1.5 million new jobs since the president took office, including over 260,000 last month, it’s clear his agenda is putting Americans back to work,” White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said.

Nevertheless, average monthly job creation now stands at 169,000 so far this year, significantly below the 192,000 monthly average recorded through October of last year.

The labour force participation rate also fell 0.4 points to 62.7pc and the employment-to-population ratio shrank 0.2 points to 60.2pc — suggesting the fall in unemployment may partly reflect a dip in the size of the workforce as well as job creation.