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The November jobs report is expected to show healthy earnings again.


The course of the economy as the holiday season approaches and a tumultuous year draws to a close will come into focus Friday morning as the government releases data on hiring and unemployment in November.

Economists polled by Bloomberg are looking for 550,000 job gains, a robust number that points to economic momentum. In October, 531,000 jobs were added, and first-time jobless claims recently hit a 52-year low.

Unemployment is expected to fall by a tenth of a percentage point to 4.5 percent.

Employment has been aided by the easing of the Delta strain of the coronavirus in many places and increased staffing in bars and restaurants, as well as in retail stores, offices and factories. The emergence of the Omicron variant threatens some of that gain, but it is too early to estimate the risk to the economy.

“We should continue to see strong job growth as labor demand is red hot, but there is a lid on potential acceleration as the pandemic is still ongoing,” said Daniel Zhao, senior economist at career site Glassdoor.

He expects the report to show formidable recruits in retail, transportation and warehousing, with companies hiring staff to anticipate holiday demand.

Despite the tight labor market and healthy recent workforce, the economy remains about four million jobs below prepandemic levels. About a third of those positions are in the leisure and hospitality industry, which is vulnerable if the Omicron variant proves to be as much of a threat as the Delta variant, limiting travel and gatherings.

“That’s the risk, but it probably won’t show up before Christmas,” said Scott Anderson, chief economist at Bank of the West in San Francisco. “It could become a problem in the new year. We are still dealing with the Covid pandemic and the risks are there for the economy and the workforce.”

The economy’s path has been marked by clashing signals throughout the fall.

The “quit rate” — a measure of the number of workers leaving their jobs as a share of total employment — has been at or near record highs, demonstrating confidence among workers that they can navigate the job market and find something better. But the University of Michigan? consumer confidence survey have fallen to levels not seen since the slow recovery from the recession of 2007-2009.

The report noted “the growing belief among consumers that effective policies have not yet been developed to mitigate the damage of rising inflation.” Shoppers face the highest inflation in 31 years. In October, prices rose by 6.2 percent compared to a year earlier.

Despite this, the markets have remained relatively calm. Major stock indices have risen at impressive levels this year. And bond yields, which tend to move higher in an inflationary environment, remain close to record lows, indicating investors don’t view inflation as a long-term threat to the economy or financial stability.

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