DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The U.S. stock market is still humming, despite the ongoing trade war and some temporary setbacks like the General Motors strike. Employers added 128,000 jobs in October, and that's more than forecasters were expecting. Job gains for both August and September were also revised upwards. President Trump celebrated the good news, tweeting, quote, "USA rocks." NPR's Scott Horsley joins me to talk about this. Hi there, Scott.
SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: Hi, David.
GREENE: OK, so this was a surprisingly strong report from the Labor Department. What is it - exactly is it saying here?
HORSLEY: It was a surprisingly strong report. Forecasters were bracing for a really weak jobs report - partly because of that GM strike but also because we've seen signals the overall economy has been shifting to a lower gear. In general, forecasters were expecting to see job gains of 75,000 to 100,000 in October. This beats that by a good margin. And the job gains for August and September were also revised up by a total of 95,000. What this is telling us is that the U.S. job market is remarkably resilient despite headwinds like a slowing global economy and all the uncertainty that surrounds the president's trade war. Now, all the job gains in October and the vast majority of job gains in August and September were on the services side. There were big gains in things like hospitality and health care. Those are things you tend to consume locally, so they're less affected by global headwinds.
GREENE: Did the good news extend to the manufacturing sector? Because I know that's been a real weak spot.
HORSLEY: And it continues to be a weak spot. We're going to get some more information about manufacturing later this morning. But factories, along with farms, have taken the biggest hit so far because of the trade war. According to the Labor Department, there were 36,000 fewer manufacturing jobs in October than the month before. But some of that is a temporary slowdown because of that GM strike. Of course, that strike's settled now, and that means tens of thousands of auto workers are back on the job after 40 days on the picket lines. I talked to Randy Freeman. He's the president of UAW Local 652 in Lansing, Mich.
RANDY FREEMAN: They were starting to feel a little bit of a pinch, but they're glad to be back. They're glad to be working and having this behind them and going into the holiday season.
HORSLEY: And, of course, now the UAW has reached a tentative agreement with Ford, as well, so that's good news for auto employment.
GREENE: How about the unemployment rate? I mean, that's something we always look to.
HORSLEY: Yeah. It's still really low, but it did inch up by a tenth of a percent to 3.6%. That's because the job market's been so strong, a lot of people who were on the sidelines are now coming back into the workforce. So that's encouraging. We also saw a slight acceleration in wages. Over the last year, average hourly wages have increased by about 3%.
GREENE: All right - largely good news. At a moment like this, we always look to the stock market to see if investors are reacting, and I guess the market's open. Are we seeing anything?
HORSLEY: Yes. The markets like what they're seeing in this jobs report. The Dow Jones Industrial Average is up about 160 points at this moment, little over half a percent. You know, earlier this week, the Federal Reserve cut interest rates by a quarter percentage point. The market also liked that. But the Fed signaled that could be the last rate cut for a while unless the economy turns south. The overall pace of economic growth has been slowing, and there's a chance that the manufacturing problems could spill over into the job market. But Fed Chairman Jerome Powell says he and his colleagues aren't worried about that just yet. Right now the job market and consumer spending is holding up really well. And that's certainly underscored by this better-than-expected report from the Labor Department.
GREENE: All right. Talking through these new jobs numbers with NPR's Scott Horsley. Scott, we appreciate it. Thanks a lot.
HORSLEY: Good to be with you, David.
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