US stocks were mixed on Friday following a stronger than expected payroll report. Sectors were mixed, with technology and healthcare rising, and energy and real estate underperforming. The dollar hit a fresh 2-month low on Friday, which helped buoy gold and silver prices. Oil prices dropped by nearly 4%, which weighed on energy shares. The US election results moved closer to declaring a winner, as Vice President Biden took the lead in Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Georgia. President Trump was quiet on Friday but did a press conference on Thursday where he accused the system of fraud and said that the Democrats were attempting to steal the election from him. The VIX volatility index, which measures volatility on the “at the money” strike prices on the S&P 500 index, dropped 33% for the week, settling near 25.
Payrolls Rise More than Expected
US nonfarm payrolls increased by 638,000 according to the Labor Department. This is compared to a 530,000 increase expected. The unemployment rate was at 6.9%, compared to expectations that it would be edged down to 7.7%. The September level of 7.9% was unchanged. The decline in the unemployment rate came despite an uptick in the labor force participation rate that rose 0.3 percentage points to 61.7%. An alternative measure that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons also fell, to 12.1% from 12.8% a month ago.
The Household survey showed a robust 2.24 million increase in payrolls. October’s gains would have been even better if not for the loss of 147,000 Census workers that contributed to an overall fall of 268,000 in government jobs. The biggest job gains came in the hardest-hit sector during the pandemic, as leisure and hospitality jumped by 271,000. Of that total, bars and restaurants increased 192,000.