96 Comments By The Editorial Board The Editorial Board The Wall Street Journal Biography @WSJopinion WSJOpinion Jan. 4, 2019 7:23 p.m. ET Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell speaks at the American Economic Association/Allied Social Science Association 2019 meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 4. Photo: christopher aluka berry/Reuters
Americans needed some reassuring economic news, and on Friday they received a double dose: First, a blowout jobs report for December, followed by a tacit admission by Chairman Jerome Powell that he had messed up at his December press conference by suggesting the Federal Reserve is on “auto-pilot” on its tightening course.
Markets reacted with a big vote of confidence, sending the Dow Jones average up 3.3% and the Nasdaq 4.3%. The equity rally roared right past continuing political rancor in Washington over a partial government shutdown that may not end soon—a sign that policy gridlock wouldn’t be the worst outcome over the next two years.
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The labor report could hardly have been better, with employers creating 312,000 new jobs in the last month of 2018, plus an upward revision of 58,000 for October and November. The unemployment rate rose to 3.9% from 3.7%, but that was also good news as 419,000 workers joined the labor force. Many haven’t yet found work, but the flood of job seekers suggests the U.S. still isn’t at full employment.
They’re being drawn by more openings and rising pay. One intriguing note is that the number of job leavers rose in the month by 142,000 to 839,000.