US job growth accelerates, jobless rate falls to 4.1 percent

WASHINGTON, Nov 3 (Reuters) - U.S. job growth accelerated in October after hurricane-related disruptions hurt employment in September, but there were signs that labor market momentum was slowing as annual wage gains sharply retreated.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 261,000 jobs last month as 106,000 leisure and hospitality workers returned to work, the Labor Department said in its closely watched employment report on Friday. That was the largest gain since July 2016, but was below economists' expectations for an increase of 310,000 jobs.

Data for September was revised to show payrolls rising by 18,000 instead of falling by 33,000 as previously reported. The unemployment rate fell to near a 17-year low of 4.1 percent because people left the labor force. Still, the data probably does little to change expectations the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates in December.

RELATED: Highest-paying jobs for millennials 

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10 highest-paying jobs for millennials
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10 highest-paying jobs for millennials

10. Loan Officer

Average salary: $75,170

Work-life balance: above average

Stress level: average

Working for banks, mortgage companies and other financial institutions, loan officers determine whether to approve loans for individuals and businesses. They collect financial information to assess whether applicants need money and how easily they will be able to repay those funds. Officers often specialize in the fields of consumer (given to individuals), commercial (given to businesses) and mortgage (given to purchase property) loans. They need to have strong instincts for sales and customer service. Some officers travel outside of office settings to meet with clients off site.

9. Accountant

Average salary: $75,280

Work-life balance: above average

Stress level: average

Sticklers for detail and deadlines, accountants prepare and assess financial documents. Most individuals come into contact with these professionals in the early spring around tax time, but accountants work year-round for companies and other institutions, keeping records up to date and ensuring compliance with reporting requirements. In addition to completing college coursework, many accountants take licensing exams to become certified. Depending on their specialties, they may have busy seasons, such as the end of a company's fiscal year. Organization and timeliness are essential to success in this field.

8. Operations Research Analyst

Average salary: $84,180

Work-life balance: average

Stress level: above average

People who love to solve puzzles and devise more efficient ways of working may thrive as operations research analysts. They use math and analytical tools to help businesses streamline their work and devise solutions to challenges. They may also conduct interviews with workers to gain a fuller understanding of how systems work. Operations research analysts often labor in teams with people who have expertise complementary to their own, so the ability to collaborate is important to the job. They also must be confident in their ability to make solid recommendations, since most business problems have many possible solutions.

7. Radiation Therapist

Average salary: $84,460

Work-life balance: above average

Stress level: below average

If the health care world interests you, but the prospect of completing medical school seems daunting, a career in radiation therapy could be a good option. These therapists work closely with patients to provide treatment for cancer. Using CT scans and X-rays and working closely with doctors and nurses, they discern where to target radiation and administer doses. They're responsible for keeping detailed records of their work. Being able to communicate compassionately with patients and their families is important to this role, which may appeal to millennials who want to aid others.

6. Environmental Engineer

Average salary: $88,040

Work-life balance: average

Stress level: average

For the nature-lover with a scientific bent, environmental engineering could be an attractive career path. People who work in this field apply biology, chemistry and engineering principles to design and build better systems for recycling, water use and pollution control. Their work affects not only the natural world but also public health and government policies. Although many environmental engineers spend time in office settings, they may have opportunities to travel to and work from outdoor locations where projects are underway. Beyond scientific training, environmental engineers should have strong communication skills.

5. Mechanical Engineer

Average salary: $88,190

Work-life balance: above average

Stress level: average

Love to see physical results from your hard work? You may appreciate the world of mechanical engineers, who dream up, construct and assess tools and machines. They develop and use cutting-edge technology at manufacturing companies and engineering firms, working on turbines, batteries, generators and engines. Mechanical engineers should be good at math, working in teams and applying creative thinking to solving real-world problems. Although they help produce tangible products, they use computer systems frequently in their work, so technical skills are important, too.

4. Computer Systems Analyst

Average salary: $90,180

Work-life balance: average

Stress level: average

Technology jobs don't have to be solitary. Computer systems analysts combine digital knowledge with customer service, working closely with business professionals to learn the ins and outs of their company needs and the technological possibilities that can address them. After selecting appropriate solutions, computer systems analysts help install digital systems and train other workers how to use them. These information science specialists often develop expertise in topics like health care or finance and may work directly for corporations or as consultants.

3. Software Developer

Average salary: $102,160

Work-life balance: above average

Stress level: average

The games on your smartphone, the computer programs essential to your job, the systems you use to edit photos and stream movies: These are all examples of software, technology that has built much of the contemporary world. Software developers are the architects of that technology, which makes their work exciting to some millennials. The profession requires computer coding skills, creativity and a tolerance for trial and error. The work can sometimes be done remotely, making it a good fit for a young worker hoping to establish a good work-life balance.

2. Actuary

Average salary: $110,560

Work-life balance: average

Stress level: average

In antiquity, the Greeks had oracles and the Chinese had fortunetellers. Today, businesses rely on actuaries to discern probable outcomes. Actuaries don't actually predict the future, of course, but they use statistics and financial theory to assess the likelihood that specific events will come to pass. They identify risks and create policies designed to minimize the costs of those risks. Actuaries often work for insurance companies, where their expertise helps set profitable rates for various insurance plans. In addition to strong math skills, actuaries need a solid understanding of computer science and databases.

1. Financial Advisor

Average salary: $118,050

Work-life balance: average

Stress level: above average

From assessing stock options to reviewing taxes to making recommendations about retirement savings, financial advisors help clients make the most of their resources. They often have backgrounds in business, economics or psychology and should be good listeners who can explain complex systems clearly. When not directly advising clients, many financial advisors have to market their services through networking and making presentations. About a fifth of financial advisors are self-employed, and many work during the evenings and on weekends, which may appeal to millennials who want to set their own schedules and preserve a good work-life balance.

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The sharp moderation in job growth in September was blamed on hurricanes Harvey and Irma, which devastated parts of Texas and Florida in late August and early September, leaving workers, mostly in lower-paying industries such as leisure and hospitality, temporarily unemployed.

October's acceleration in employment growth reinforces the Fed's assessment on Wednesday that "the labor market has continued to strengthen and that economic activity has been rising at a solid rate despite hurricane-related disruptions."

The U.S. central bank kept interest rates unchanged on Wednesday and financial markets have almost priced in an increase in borrowing costs in December. The Fed has hiked rates twice this year.

But the return of the lower-paying industry workers held down wage growth in October. Average hourly earnings slipped by one cent, leaving them unchanged in percentage terms. That lowered the year-on-year increase to 2.4 percent, which was the smallest annual increase since February 2016. They shot up 0.5 percent in September, lifting the annual increase in that month to 2.9 percent.

RELATED: Hurricane Harvey victims return home

25 PHOTOS
Harvey victims return home
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Harvey victims return home
Erlind Trigo and her niece Miriam weep as they look at family photographs which they salvaged from their home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
A man disposes of drywall while salvaging through belongings from his family home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
George Diaz disposes of furniture while salvaging through belongings from his family home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Mariah Castillo watches her mother Roxanne Castillo kiss her mother Dolores Hedger, 68, while salvaging through their family home in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Chairs are seen drying outside of a pentecostal church where local residents prepare for Sunday service after tropical storm Harvey in east Houston, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Bible and hymn books that were damaged by tropical storm Harvey are seen outside a Baptist church in Dickinson, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A volunteer helps clean up the damage from a Lutheran church in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Dickinson, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A volunteer helps clean up the damage from a Lutheran church in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Harvey in Dickinson, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A home insurance inspector conducts an assessment of damages on the roof of a house after tropical storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S., September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
Melissa Ramirez (C) struggles against the current flowing down a flooded street helped by Edward Ramirez (L) and Cody Collinsworth as she tried to return to her home for the first time since Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Nancy McBride collects items from her flooded kitchen as she returned to her home for the first time since Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Nancy McBride's half eaten supper still sits on the table since she evacuated in haste before Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Nancy McBride's cat looks out from an air hole punched in a tub after the cat was found in her garage when McBride came home for the first time since Harvey floodwaters arrived in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Patrice Laporte measures how much of the Harvey floodwaters have gone down at his house in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
The high water mark is visible on a house surrounded Harvey floodwaters in Houston, Texas September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A girl carries toys she collected from a trash pile of Hurricane Harvey flood damage in southwestern Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
People sort through belongings found in Hurricane Harvey flood damage in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
A volunteer from Texas A&M University helps to clean up flood damage in the house of an alumnus in southwestern Houston, Texas September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Shirts are see drying outside of a trailer house damaged by tropical storm Harvey in East Houston, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
People sort through belongings found in Hurricane Harvey flood damage in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Rogelio Salina takes as break as he helps a neighbor to clean a house damaged by Tropical Storm Harvey in East Houston, Texas, U.S. September 1, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
A man tears out Hurricane Harvey flood damage from a home in southwestern Houston, Texas, U.S. September 2, 2017. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
Vince Ware moves his sofas onto the sidewalk from his house which was left flooded from Tropical Storm Harvey in Houston, Texas, U.S. September 3, 2017. REUTERS/Adrees Latif
Daniel Vasquez removes a damaged carpet after Tropical Storm Harvey flooded his home in east Houston, Texas, U.S. September 3, 2017. Vasquez and his family, originally from El Salvador, spent six days at the shelter after being airlifted by rescue helicopter. Vasquez, a truck driver who supports a family of five, did not hold flood insurance. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
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Economists, however, remain optimistic that wage growth will accelerate with the labor market near full employment. Last month's one-tenth percentage point drop in the unemployment rate took it to its lowest reading since December 2000. The decline, however, reflected a drop in the labor force. The jobless rate is now below the Fed's median forecast for 2017.

LABOR MARKET TIGHTENING

A broader measure of unemployment, which includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part time because they cannot find full-time employment, dropped to 7.9 percent last month, the lowest level since December 2006, from 8.3 percent in September.

For now, tepid wage growth supports views that inflation will continue to undershoot its 2 percent target and could raise concerns about consumer spending, which appears to have been largely supported by savings this year.

The economy grew at a 3.0 percent annualized rate in the third quarter. Economic strength has persisted even as President Donald Trump and the Republican-led Congress have struggled to enact their economic program.

Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday unveiled a bill that proposed slashing the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, cutting tax rates on individuals and families and ending certain tax breaks. The tax plan has already been met with opposition from small businesses, realtors and homebuilders.

October's employment gains took the average for the past two months to 90,000, below the 162,000 monthly average in the last three months. The economy needs to create 75,000 to 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population.

The slowdown in the job growth trend largely reflects difficulties by employers finding qualified workers.

Private payrolls surged by 219,000 jobs in October after falling by 3,000 in September. Manufacturing employment increased by 24,000 jobs. The retail sector lost 8,300 jobs last month.

Construction payrolls gained 11,000 in October, likely boosted by hiring related to the clean-up and rebuilding efforts in the wake of the hurricanes. (Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Paul Simao)

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