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Trump Plays to Fears ahead of Midterms, Obama Campaigns for Dems; Iranians Defiant in Face of U.S. Pressure; Tight Race for Congress Man Who Disagreed with Trump; Khashoggi's Fiancee Opens Up in Emotional Op-Ed; Seven-Year-Old Girl Who Symbolized Yemen's Suffering Dies; U.S. Companies Compete for Workers as Economy Grows. Aired 5-6a ET

Aired November 3, 2018 - 05:00   ET






NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Two presidents past and present on the campaign trail ahead of what some say is one of the most polarized elections in American history.

GEORGE HOWELL, CNN ANCHOR (voice-over): Plus slapping Iran with what President Trump says are serious sanctions on the country's oil industry. We're live in Tehran with reaction.

ALLEN (voice-over): As President Trump doubles down on immigration, some Republicans fear he may have a negative impact on their state's midterms.

HOWELL (voice-over): From CNN World Headquarters in Atlanta. Welcome to viewers in the United States and around the world. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN (voice-over): And I'm Natalie Allen. CNN NEWSROOM starts right now.


ALLEN: Thank you for joining us.

U.S. president Trump and former president Barack Obama are on the campaign trail in the finals days before the U.S. midterm elections.

HOWELL: President Trump conceded the Democrats could win a majority in the House of Representatives on Tuesday but said he wouldn't be to blame if that were to happen. He also pushed his immigration message, telling crowds, Democrats want to invite migrants, crime and others into the country.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP) TRUMP: I think it could be a red wave. I'll tell you what. Really, I think it could be a red wave.

The Democrats. And it could happen, it could happen. We're doing very well and we're doing really well in the Senate. But it could happen. You know what you do?

My whole life, you know what I say, don't worry about it. I'll just figure it out.


ALLEN: On Friday, Barack Obama campaigned for Democratic candidates in Florida and Georgia. He accuses President Trump and some Republicans of lying and fearmongering.


OBAMA: What we have not seen the way we're seeing right now is politicians just blatantly, repeatedly, boldly, shamelessly lying. Just making stuff up. That's what they're doing right now. All the time. Don't be bamboozled. Don't be hoodwinked.

When words stop meaning anything, when truth doesn't matter, when people can just lie with abandon, democracy can't work.


HOWELL: The former U.S. president there. The current president fired back, accusing Mr. Obama of broken promises during his presidency. Our Jim Acosta has more on this Trump campaign stop in Indianapolis.


JIM ACOSTA, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump continues his war of words with former president Barack Obama at a rally here in Indianapolis. The president tore into Obama, who accused Trump earlier in the day of telling lies.

The president went after Obama, saying he's told lies of his own and then (INAUDIBLE) by writing out an H with his finger. Here's what the president had to say.


TRUMP: It's no surprise that Joe Donnelly is holding a rally this weekend with Barack H. Obama. Barack Obama. I watched him speak today. He had a very small crowd. They don't talk about that. And they never talk about how big our crowds are.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The president also seized on the subject of immigration but he took time out to go after ObamaCare, telling this crowd in Indiana that he's, quote, "decimated" ObamaCare.

Democrats may want to seize on those comments as they've accused the president of trying to weaken that law and its protections for people with preexisting conditions -- Jim Acosta, CNN, Indianapolis.


HOWELL: Jim, thank you.

Republicans are so deeply entrenched in some U.S. states it's hard to get traction but this year a few of those states are genuine battlegrounds.

ALLEN: In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams and Republican Brian Kemp are locked in a heated battle for governor. Our Kaylee Hartung shows us how President Trump and Barack Obama and some big stars are trying to help these candidates win.


KAYLEE HARTUNG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Former president Barack Obama received a rock star's welcome here in Atlanta. He came to campaign on behalf of Stacey Abrams. He headlined the event by saying this might be the most important election of his lifetime and issued a call for urgency to voters.

OBAMA: The consequences of any of us staying home really are more dangerous because America's at the --


OBAMA: -- crossroads. The health care of millions is on the ballot, making sure working families get a fair shake is on the ballot. But maybe most of all, the character of our country is on the ballot.

HARTUNG (voice-over): Obama spoke in familiar tones but he didn't mince words when he essentially called out President Trump and other Republicans for the rhetoric that we heard in the lead up to these midterms, rhetoric, he said, that is meant to divide us and make us angry and fearful.

President Obama just the latest in a string of big names who came into the state on behalf of each of these gubernatorial candidates in a deadlocked race. The next one who'll come to town, President Trump on Sunday on behalf of (INAUDIBLE) -- Kaylee Hartung, CNN, Atlanta.


HOWELL: Let's talk more about this. Leslie Vinjamuri is the head of the U.S. and Americas Programme at Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, live in London.

A pleasure to have you on the show. We're seeing the former U.S. president Barack Obama hit the campaign trail in stark contrast to President Trump. The two promoting voting ahead of the midterms but very opposite in messaging.

Which message makes the biggest impact in what is clearly a divided electorate? LESLIE VINJAMURI, SOAS, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: Remember right now, as with many midterm elections, is seen widely as a referendum on the sitting president. A lot of what President Obama and President Trump are trying to do is ignite the passions of their voters and to get them to turn out and vote because so much of it right now is about getting people to turn out and vote as opposed to necessarily altering the way in which they're going to vote.

They have very different messages. President Trump, as we've seen, is really campaigning on a message that's about fear, anti-immigration. Interestingly, in a context where the economy is very strong, rather than really making that his key message -- even when he talks about the economy, he's drilling down on the fear that there could be setbacks if the Democrats were to do well in these midterm elections.

President Obama saying lies and this style of governance are just not American and not what we should be looking for.

HOWELL: You mention the economy. But immigration, again Mr. Trump pushing on that narrative of a caravan of men, women, of children, of babies coming to, as he put it, overrun the country.

Mr. Trump seemed to back away from his earlier suggestion that U.S. military should shoot immigrants if they throw rocks. Listen to the before and after. We'll talk about it.


TRUMP: They want to throw rocks at our military, our military fights back. We're going to consider it. I told them consider it a rifle. When they throw rocks like they did at the Mexico military and police, I say, consider it a rifle.

If they do that with us, they're going to be arrested. There's going to be problem. I didn't say shoot. But if they do that with us, they're going to be arrested for a long time.


HOWELL: Technically, Leslie, he did not say shoot.

But is this that dog whistle thing?

You say something and slap it down?

Is this designed to be heard by his base and rally the base?

VINJAMURI: Clearly it's designed to rally the base. And one interesting thing is whether he's pushing that immigration message in part because maybe his base hasn't seen the economic gains that America is more generally seeing.

So pulling that anti-immigrant message is much more powerful. But he's clearly facing some constraints from the people around him. Deeply controversial, the idea he would send military troops and the idea that they would shoot. But those around him, that caravan is at least a month away. The

timing looks deeply political and there are very serious people around him -- Secretary of Defense Mattis undoubtedly will be trying to walk him back from this strategy, of course we don't know but one would hope.

But he puts the words out there, they have an impact. Then he walks it back because there's a very significant backlash against that from people who think very seriously about the integrity of the U.S. military.

HOWELL: Not able to ask you about the economy question but again, the economy doing pretty well though not the centerpiece of the U.S. president when he is on the campaign trail.

Leslie Vinjamuri, thank you again for your time.

VINJAMURI: Thank you.

ALLEN: So be sure to join us --


ALLEN: -- next Tuesday for extensive coverage of the U.S. elections. It starts at 5:00 pm Eastern time and we go until all the results are known.

HOWELL: We don't stop, we keep going.

ALLEN: The U.S. tried to cripple Iran's economy with a new round of sanctions. Iran responds with defiance and anger. We will go live to Tehran just ahead here.

HOWELL: Plus the strong storm that produced a tornado in Central Florida. We'll have more on the destruction caused by all the winds there as CNN NEWSROOM pushes on.





TRUMP: Sanctions start on Iran. They're very serious sanctions. They're very big. They'll be elevated from there. But as you know, sanctions are starting on Iran and, you know, Iran is taking a very big hit.


HOWELL: The Iran sanctions that President Trump is talking about go into effect Monday. The same sanctions that had been lifted under the 2015 nuclear agreement. Essentially they order countries around the world to stop buying Iranian oil and the sanctions also take aim against financial transactions, port operators and shipbuilders.

ALLEN: U.S. secretary of state Mike Pompeo says eight oil importers will get temporary exemptions. We don't know who they are yet but Pompeo has said the European Union will not be one of them. Our senior international correspondent, Fred Pleitgen, joins me from Tehran, Iran.

And Fred, you've been out talking with Iranians about the sanctions.

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN SENIOR INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Natalie, and it's a mixed bag of things that you hear from Iranians. It's very interesting, at the beginning of the report just now, President Trump come out and say these sanctions are going to Iran very hard.

There's no doubt that's the case. Just a couple of moments ago, Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was on Iranian TV saying America will fail in its quest to dominate Iranians. But if you speak to regular folks on the streets, a lot of them very concerned about the economic situation in Iran that's already been developing over the past couple of months with the economy in a freefall and with new sanctions, even more concerns and fears for this country's economy while the more hardline elements here in Iran continue to stay put and say they will remain defiant. Here's what we learned.


PLEITGEN (voice-over): The usual chants against America more forceful than usual. During hardline Friday prayers --


PLEITGEN (voice-over): -- in Tehran.

A Revolutionary Guard general ripping into the U.S.

"We're encountering a real fight with our main enemy, America," he says, "and they're using all the resources they have and organizing a battle against us."

As the U.S. is set to hit Iran with new crippling sanctions, defiance from religious conservatives.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think these kind of sanctions make us more powerful about -- for the future. And I think this is an opportunity.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): So far, Iran's rulers not buckling under U.S. pressure.

PLEITGEN: If it was the Trump administration's intention to try and weaken the Iranian government, that certainly doesn't seem to be happening. In fact, it seems as though many Iranians are uniting behind the power structure of clergy, military and their government in anger over Washington's policies.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): President Trump has already hit Iran with a flurry of sanctions.

TRUMP: We're doing a big number on Iran.

PLEITGEN (voice-over): Sending Iran's economy and its currency into a tailspin. Now the U.S. will target Iran's important oil and gas sector, potentially a crushing blow to Iran's finances, causing concerns in this moderate area.

"The economy has started getting worse and worse," this woman says, "and everyday items are three to four times more expensive than before."

And some even calling for talks with D.C.

"You need real negotiations that both governments would be committed to," this woman says, "and they shouldn't leave the table again."

Defiance, anger but also deep concern as Iran's people once again brace for more economic hardship.


PLEITGEN: So far the Iranian government has said they don't want talk with the Trump administration at this point in time. And one of the things causing so much uncertainty is that people don't know how hard these sanctions are going to hit.

They know it's going to be pretty bad. But with these waivers, they don't know how long these waivers are going to be valid, how much oil some of these countries are still going to be able to import from Iran.

At this point in time, anybody's guess as to how hard the Iranian economy is going to be hit. But they do know it's going to be significant because the oil and gas sector is such a major part of this country's economy and they have been able to expand that after the nuclear agreement.

Looks like a lot of that has already gone away. Even more of that is going away. Just exactly how much, they don't know. But certainly, if you speak to folks here, there's two things that stand out.

There's uncertainty and also the lack of seeing a way forward as to how Iran is going to be able to overcome sanctions and get on track to make them go away at some point.

ALLEN: They go in place Monday. Fred Pleitgen, there in Tehran, thank you.

HOWELL: Ahead let's talk about these powerful storms that ripped through Central Florida on Friday. Severe damage, power outages. Strong winds produced tornadoes near the city of Tampa.

ALLEN: Cell phone video posted on social media captured the power of the wind gusts. The wind tore off roofs and uprooted trees in some neighborhoods, filling the streets with debris. (WEATHER REPORT)


ALLEN: Well, President Trump and former President Obama rallying voters ahead of next week's midterm election and presenting sharply different visions of the United States and its challenges.

Which one will help their party win Tuesday?

HOWELL: Plus the U.S. president backtracking on divisive comments he made about migrants.




HOWELL: Welcome back to viewers in the United States and all around the world. You're watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm George Howell.

ALLEN: And I'm Natalie Allen. The top stories this hour:



HOWELL: The U.S. president and the former president Obama are trading jabs on the campaign trail on the final days before the midterm elections.

ALLEN: On Friday, Obama campaigned for Democratic candidates in two key races in Florida and Georgia. He used his platform to accuse President Trump and some Republicans of lying and using fearmongering tactics.

President Trump fired back, saying Obama broke promises during his presidency. He also said Obama was attracting a very small crowd on the campaign trail.

HOWELL: In the meantime, President Trump is walking back one of his comments earlier this week, suggesting that the U.S. military could shoot any migrants who throw rocks at troops deployed to the Mexican border.

ALLEN: But he's showing no signs on giving up on the issue of invasive immigration altogether.


TRUMP: If our soldiers, border patrol or ISIS are going to be hit in the face with rocks, we're going to arrest those people. That doesn't mean shoot them. But year going to arrest those people quickly and for a long time.


ALLEN: The Pentagon has a different take. Two sources say defense officials have repeatedly emphasized the troops at the border are there to support civil authorities and they are not expected to come into any contact with migrants.

We turn now to the state of Texas, where President Trump is making life uncomfortable for a Republican congressman, who disagrees with many of the president's immigration policies.

HOWELL: Will Hurd represents a majority Hispanic district along the Mexican border and is running for reelection. Our Ed Lavandera explains it for you.


ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): If you live in the 23rd congressional district of Texas, you probably prefer life served up scenic and slow. It is a massive district that sits own roughly 800 miles of the Texas-Mexico border and stretches from San Antonio to the edge of El Paso. It is about the size of Georgia with less than a million people.

For weeks, an endless cycle of campaign ads have jammed the air waves from the incumbent Republican congressman, Will Hurd, and Democratic challenger, Gina Ortiz Jones.

A recent "New York Times" poll shows Hurd with a comfortable lead, but in the last few weeks of the campaign, the national Republican Congressional Committee suddenly dropped $600,000 into the race.

And President Trump isn't doing Hurd any favors in this majority Hispanic district by describing the migrant caravan as invaders and threatening to do away with birth right citizenship.

ALFONSO "PONCHO" NEVAREZ (D), TEXAS STATE HOUSE: I'd find a rock to hide under and just there.

LAVANDERA (on camera): Do you think Will should hide under a rock?

NEVAREZ: If I were him, I'd do that.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): Poncho Nevarez (ph) is a Democratic state representative from Eagle Pass. We talked about the race from his porch, overlooking the Rio Grande into Mexico. He considers Will Hurd a friend and says the congressman is hoping to run out the clock on this election.

(on camera): When Congressman Hurd hears the things that President Trump is saying what do you think is going through his mind?

NEVAREZ: I'm sure he is cringing. If you know Will, Will is -- he is a decent, he's a good dude.

There's no doubt about that. I mean I can't speak for the guy, but I'm sure that he don't like it. LAVANDERA: We found Congressman Hurd greeting voters outside this polling location in the town of Uvalde.

(on camera): What do you say to the voter who says I want to vote for you but you are in the president's party and the way he talks about these things just rubs me the wrong way?

REP. WILL HURD (R), TEXAS: Look, I think people know that I'm going to agree when I agree and disagree when I disagree. I'm the only person in this race, my race that has proven ability to work across the aisle and also stand up to both parties.

LAVANDERA (voice-over): In Washington, Hurd has carved out an image as a moderate who occasionally breaks from President Trump and the Republican Party. He doesn't support the border wall and the former CIA officer has said Trump is being manipulated by Russia.


LAVANDERA: Democrat Gina Ortiz-Jones is an Iraq war veteran and former Air Force intelligence officer. She likes to say Hurd's image as someone who stands up to Trump is overblown and that he's best consumed --


LAVANDERA (voice-over): -- as a silent film.

ORTIZ-JONES: You can't be outraged on CNN and complicit in Congress. That is not how this works. So, we unfortunately, Will Hurd says one thing in the district, votes a completely different way in Washington.

LAVANDERA: Lupe Ruiz lives in the border town of Eagle Pass. She says she hasn't voted since 2008 but plans to vote for Ortiz-Jones because of President Trump's cruel rhetoric.

Is the way president Trump is talking about immigration making you want to go out and vote again?

LUPE RUIZ, TEXAS VOTER: It's -- yes, in a way, yes, it is, because there is like a lot of racist there for me. That's what I see. The way he talks.

LAVANDERA: Roseanne Gonzalez is a life long Republican and Trump supporter. She worries his tone is alienating much needed voters in this district.

ROSEANNE GONZALES, TEXAS VOTER: A harder stance is a good thing. I don't think that the way that president Trump is saying it is relating well. But I think that his message that he wants to get across is good. Just not the way that he is sending it.

LAVANDERA: Ed Lavandera, CNN, Uvalde County, Texas.

(END VIDEOTAPE) HOWELL: To the war in Yemen; that war has taken a gruesome toll on millions of people. Still, ahead, we're speaking to a man behind an icon photo that showed the horrors of that war.




ALLEN: And welcome back.

The president of Turkey has issued one of his most pointed accusations yet on the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote this Friday in "The Washington Post," Khashoggi's former employer, this.

"We know the perpetrators are --


ALLEN: -- "among the 18 suspects detained in Saudi Arabia. We know the order to kill Khashoggi came from the highest levels of the Saudi government."

HOWELL: Mr. Erdogan accused the Saudis of stalling the investigation of the murder. Khashoggi's fiancee has also written in "The Post," lamenting the lack of progress in this case.

CNN's Jomana Karadsheh has this report for us.


JOMANA KARADSHEH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: It's been a month since Jamal Khashoggi took his final footsteps, walking into this building, into the Saudi consulate. And still, one month on, no body, no remains, no grave, making the situation even much harder for his loved ones, for his family.

A month that has felt like a lifetime, according to his fiancee, Hatice Cengiz, who wrote an opinion piece in "The Washington Post" to mark this one month.

I met Hatice Cengiz as she was outside this consulate 24 hours after Jamal Khashoggi walked in. She was still waiting for him outside, still hoping he was going to walk out of this building and she was blaming herself for the situation.

She broke down into tears, saying she felt guilty, that the only reason Khashoggi went into the consulate was to receive a piece of paper that would allow them to get married. And she's still dealing with these emotions.

According to this really emotional piece she wrote and at the same time she's continuing to call for accountability, continuing to call for justice, saying the international community must put pressure on Saudi Arabia to bring those responsible for the killing of Jamal Khashoggi to justice.

They must find out where his body is and says that the United States bears a responsibility here to lead this effort.

But so far she says it seems that some in Washington -- and this is something we've heard from others here -- they feel that some in the Trump administration are using a stalling tactic, hoping that the world will forget about this, that the world will move on without the United States jeopardizing its ties with Saudi Arabia.

But she's saying she will not give up. She'll continue calling for justice and this is something we've also heard from officials here in Turkey, saying they are going to continue with their investigation and they will get to the bottom of this, they say.

And the fear here is -- and I've heard this from several human rights activists and dissidents in this region. They say unless the United States and the international community really push for accountability and justice in this case, there will be many other Jamal Khashoggis -- Jomana Karadsheh, CNN, Istanbul.


HOWELL: Jomana, thank you.

There are new calls from the U.S. for a ceasefire in Yemen. The years-long war between Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels in Yemen has created one of the world's worst humanitarian crises.

ALLEN: Millions of Yemenis are suffering from cholera and starvation. Many of them are children. "The New York Times" published a shocking photo in October, bringing the world's attention back to Yemen.

It was a photo very disturbing, very hard to look at. We want to warn you about it because we're going to show it to you in case you missed it. But it's so important to see.

HOWELL: Here's the photo. This is Amal, the 7-year-old girl being treated for severe malnutrition. At the time, many readers were struck by her haunting stare. They wanted to know what happened to her. We understand she died just a week after the photo was published.

ALLEN: Earlier here, Cyril Vanier spoke with Tyler Hicks, the photographer who took that photo. He described what it was like to meet her and be in Yemen at this time.


TYLER HICKS, PHOTOJOURNALIST: Amal was responsive, she was -- she was -- but very calm. She had such little energy. And to me, it just didn't seem like she would survive. We heard after we left that in fact she had been discharged from the hospital.

However that was not because she was doing better but because her family didn't have any money to take her to a better clinic and were forced to take her back to her village because new cases were coming in and there's virtually no space for her.

When you drive down any street in Yemen, whether it's a big city or out in the middle of nowhere in the countryside, you are absolutely -- that there are people coming up to the vehicle begging. People are absolutely desperate, they're laying in the street.

It's not just like a small amount of people. It is everywhere you look, the entire country is desperate, there's no jobs, no money. And that's leading to mass starvation.


HOWELL: UNICEF says some 400,000 children just like Amal are suffering severe --


HOWELL: -- malnutrition in the country.

ALLEN: But Doctors without Borders warns it's impossible for humanitarian organizations working in Yemen to have an overall view of malnutrition across the country. And we're going to talk with our guest about why that is.

Caroline Ducarme is the head of mission for Doctors without Borders in Yemen. She joins me now over the phone from the capital, Sanaa.

We so appreciate your efforts to talk with us and the work of your group.

Why is it that it's so hard in Yemen to get a sense of the scope of this disaster as far as starvation, malnutrition of so many people?

And as we just saw, of the very youngest and poorest children?

CAROLINE DUCARME, MEDECINS SANS FRONTIERES: Hi, yes. So perhaps we can come back just a second on this issue of famine because I know there's a lot of misleading information regarding (INAUDIBLE).

So famine would be a situation where we say widespread and food shortages or a complete lack of access to food from the population. Large swaths of the population (INAUDIBLE) but also mothers, fathers, everyone.

And those people would be left without (INAUDIBLE) extreme coping mechanisms and would be extremely and increasingly vulnerable to other diseases that would lead to very high mortalities.

There's no evidence of this situation at the moment in Yemen (INAUDIBLE) it's not something that we can replace in our projects as (INAUDIBLE).


DUCARME: Something that we want to emphasize, though, is that it is a very dire situation for the population. In fact, we, too, are very concerned about the nutritional status of the population in Yemen. We continue to receive every day in our (INAUDIBLE) teams that (INAUDIBLE) malnourished children.

We received since January, 3,300 of them in our side centers (ph) across the country. And this leads definitely to a deterioration of the living conditions and increased exposure to food insecurities. And this is a result of various factors, either direct or indirect consequences of the war. So there is a deterioration in the situation (INAUDIBLE).

ALLEN: Yes and, Ms. Ducarme, I want to ask you, this is an ongoing war.

What -- and the economy's in shambles, there are no jobs for people, they are truly desperate.

What is preventing the situation from improving?

What would help your organization work in the country?

What would help you get more access to people across the country?

DUCARME: Again, the various challenges that we are facing in the country. And access, as you mentioned, is one of them. So access leading to the insecurity and the war in itself. It's true that a lot of population are still living very close to active front lines and that's where they need access to health care and that's where we are.

So security is one of the reasons. This is one of the (INAUDIBLE) the huge administrative burden that's very heavily impacting the access for all injured in the country. So there's this access (INAUDIBLE) due to the population but also, of course, the access from the population to the health care is also a big huge problem.

And this is linked, as you mentioned, to the inflation and the very high cost of the transportation but also to the security, to the fear that they've been living in and this prevents them to arrive on time or early enough in the hospitals.

And often we see them arriving at the late stage with a lot of complications that makes it very difficult for us to save them and to care for them.

ALLEN: Right, yes. The photographer in "The New York Times" was saying that the little girl that died, they had to leave the hospital because there was not anything they could do for her and the family didn't have money.

We so appreciate your talking with us and all the work of Doctors without Borders in this terrible, terrible situation in Yemen. Caroline Ducarme, thank you so much.

DUCARME: Thank you for giving me a chance to talk about Yemen.

ALLEN: Absolutely, thank you.

HOWELL: Thank you for being with us.

And we'll be right back.






ALLEN: In the U.S., new evidence that economy is running on all cylinders.

HOWELL: 250,000 jobs were added in October. Unemployment is at a half-century low of 3.7 percent. And real wages rose by 3.1 percent from a year ago.

ALLEN: CNN's Clare Sebastian has an offshoot to this story. She explains the strong economy is forcing companies to compete for workers during the holidays.




CARDAMONE: Outstanding.

CLARE SEBASTIAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: For Joe Cardamone, manager of JCPenney's Manhattan flagship ...

CARDAMONE: Congratulations. Welcome.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): -- the relief at seeing this turnout is palpable. This day could make or break his holiday season.

CARDAMONE: Because it is a tight job market out there. So for most JCPenney stores, it's getting ahead of the other retailers.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): JCPenney held its second-ever nationwide hiring event in mid-October, hoping to attract 39,000 people. And there's a new incentive: a chance to win a free vacation.

CARDAMONE: It's a dogfight out there and I think whatever incentive you can give a new associate to stay around with you will always help.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): The dogfight because this is not just the tightest labor market the U.S. has seen in almost half a century, it's also set to be one of the busiest shopping seasons in years.

Consultancy firm Challenger Gray and Christmas (ph) has so far recorded more than 700,000 -- [05:55:00]

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): -- job announcements, the highest since they began tracking in 2012. And one of the biggest stars of all, Amazon just upped the stakes even further, offering a $15 minimum wage to all employees.

SEBASTIAN: Stores are really having to sell themselves. Target, for example, is offering $12 an hour and a $500 gift card for randomly selected employees in an effort to hire 20 percent more people this year.

And Macy's says most of its seasonal hires will be eligible for a new bonus program.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): And it's not just the retailers. Shipping giant UPS has rebranded its seasonal hiring event, Brown Friday, promising the chance of a permanent career.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We started planning for holiday season 2018 the day after holiday season 2017. We certainly anticipated that the unemployment rate was likely to go down and it was going to be even more competitive.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): Another hiring trick is to target consistent customers; 57-year-old Maritza Virouet (ph) found out JCPenney was hiring from a notice on her receipt.

MARITZA VIROUET (PH), JCPENNEY CUSTOMER: Well, I shop here frequently. Now for the holidays I can stop in and spend my money here and work at the same time.

SEBASTIAN (voice-over): She'll be working in customer service, the front line of a festive shopping frenzy -- Clare Sebastian, CNN, New York.


ALLEN: Holiday shopping. Not ready for it yet, George.

HOWELL: No, not ready at all.

ALLEN: Thanks for watching CNN NEWSROOM. I'm Natalie Allen.

HOWELL: And I'm George Howell. For viewers in the United States, "NEW DAY" is next. For viewers around the world, the special report, "Democracy in Peril: The War on Voting Rights" is ahead.

You're watching CNN, the world's news leader.

ALLEN: Thank you for watching.