The unemployment rate fell to 4.6 percent in November, almost equal to the pre-recession lows in 2007. However the sharp decline was partly due to people leaving the labor force, the employment-to-population ratio was unchanged at 59.7 percent. It actually fell slightly for prime-age (ages 25-54) workers, from 78.2 percent to 78.1 percent, although it is still 0.7 percentage points above its year ago level.
Most other data in the household survey was positive, most notably a drop of 220,000 in the number of people involuntarily working part-time to a new post-recession low. At the same time, those choosing to work part-time jumped by 327,000. This is likely a dividend of the Affordable Care Act with workers now having the option to get insurance through the exchanges so that they don’t need full-time jobs to get insurance through an employer. This number is now up by almost 2.2 million from December 2013, the month before the exchanges came into existence.
Job growth for the month was 178,000, roughly in line with expectations. The average hourly wage reportedly fell 3 cents in November after a sharp jump reported for October. This is likely due to measurement error, but it does undermine the case for accelerating wage growth. Wages have risen by 2.5 percent over the last year. When we factor in the shift from non-wage to wage compensation (mostly a reduction in health care benefits), this means there is essentially no evidence of wage acceleration whatsoever.