US monthly job gains largest in 3 years; wages rise

WASHINGTON - US employers added the largest number of workers in nearly three years in October and wages increased, which could bring the Federal Reserve closer to raising interest rates.

Nonfarm payrolls surged by 321,000 last month, the most since January of 2012, the Labor Department said on Friday. The unemployment rate held steady at a six-year low of 5.8 per cent.

Data for September and October were revised to show 44,000 more jobs created than previously reported.

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by only 230,000 last month.

November marked the 10th straight month that job growth has exceeded 200,000, the longest stretch since 1994, and further confirmed the economy is weathering slowdowns in China and the euro zone, as well as a recession in Japan.

There are signs the strengthening labour market conditions are starting to spur faster wage growth, a key factor that will determine the timing of the US central bank's first rate hike.

Average hourly earnings rose by 9 cents in November, which left them up 2.1 per cent from a year ago - still well below the increase of 3 per cent or more that economists say would make the Fed comfortable lifting benchmark overnight rates from near zero, where they have been since December 2008.

Many economists expect the Fed to wait until mid-2015 before hiking rates.

Details of November's employment report were upbeat. Most of the measures Fed Chair Janet Yellen tracks to gauge the amount of slack in the labour market are seen showing further improvement.

A broad measure of joblessness that includes people who want to work but have given up searching and those working part-time because they cannot find full-time employment fell to a fresh six-year low of 11.4 per cent from 11.5 per cent in October. The ranks of the long-term unemployed are also shrinking.

The labour force participation rate, or the share of working-age Americans who are employed or at least looking for a job, was steady at 62.8 per cent.

Job gains were broad-based, with employment in professional and businesses services jumping 68,000. Retail payrolls increased by 50,200 as employers stepped up hiring in anticipation of a strong holiday shopping season.

Manufacturing and construction employment accelerated from October. Government payrolls increased by 7,000.