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Jobs grew by 228,000 in November, with strong hiring across the board in manufacturing, construction and professional jobs.
Employers were expected to have added about 200,000 jobs in November and wage growth was seen as strong, two trends reinforcing that the Federal Reserve will raise rates when it meets next week.
The employment report showed the unemployment rate held at 4.1 percent, and average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent, slightly less than the 0.3 percent expected. Year-over-year, wages rose 2.5 percent pace, up from 2.4 percent in October. For more, read the latest on November job gains.
Economists expect to see some continued recovery in hiring after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma hit Texas and the Southeast in August and September.
"I think it's going to be a pretty firm report," said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Amherst Pierpont. "I have 210,000 for payrolls. I think it's that high because there's a little bit more of the post-storm recovery."
He said restaurants were most affected. "It was down 98,000 in September and up only 89,000 in October. That's usually about 20,000 a month. I don't think we got back to normal in October," he said.
Diane Swonk, CEO of DS Economics, expects to see 180,000 payrolls added in November, but does not expected a positive impact from retail hiring even though it is holiday shopping season. The trend of shoppers moving toward online merchants should continue to show up in the data instead.
"We might see a decline in retail," she said. "They're just not going to be staffing up a lot because they actually have closed a lot of stores." There could be an increase in warehouse jobs related to online retail.
Stanley said he expects the Fed to keep its interest rate forecast at three hikes for next year when it meets next week. But he expects the Fed could actually raise four times.
If the wage data are particularly strong, markets could begin to expect a more hawkish Fed. The markets currently see two rate hikes for next year.
Luke Tilley, chief economist at Wilmington Trust, said he expects a below-consensus 150,000 jobs Friday. Tilley said one reason is that the labor market is tight, and it's taking a long time for employers to fill openings. "It's getting very challenging to hire people," he said.