Hiring is downshifting

The U.S. unemployment rate has reached a 50-year low of 3.5%. Yet there are warning signs behind that good-news headline. Businesses have slowed their pace of hiring, and by one measure they’re adding jobs at the weakest rate in more than eight years. Jobs at private-sector employers rose just 1.6% in September from a year earlier, matching August’s year-over-year gain as the smallest such increase since 2011. Hiring has picked up at local and state governments, a gain that has partly offset the overall slowdown. And the federal government has added.

jobs in preparation for next year’s Census. But employers in many industries have pulled back. Manufacturers cut jobs in March and September this year after having hired at a solid pace in 2018. Construction job growth has slowed. Retailers have shed positions for eight straight months. Hotels and restaurants are adding fewer workers than they did at the start of the year. Still, other barometers of the job market look more positive: Layoffs, for example, remain low, which is important because job cuts tend to be a telltale sign of a coming recession.

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