Coverage: Big job growth occurred in December
U.S. employers hired the most workers in 10 months in December while boosting wages, pointing to sustained strength in the economy that could ease fears of a sharp slowdown in growth.
Lucia Mutikani of Reuters had the news:
Nonfarm payrolls surged by 312,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since February, as employment at construction and leisure and hospitality locations snapped back after being restrained by unseasonably cold temperatures in November.
Job gains were reported across all industries, with the exception of the information sector, which shed employment for the second straight month. Data for October and November were revised to show 58,000 more jobs added than previously reported.
The economy created 2.6 million jobs last year compared to 2.2 million in 2017.
Average hourly earnings rose 11 cents, or 0.4 percent, in December after gaining 0.2 percent in November. That lifted the annual increase in wages to 3.2 percent, matching October’s rise, which was the largest in 9-1/2 years.
Jeff Cox of CNBC.com reported that the jobless rate rose because more people entered the workforce:
The jobless rate, which was last higher in June, rose for the right reason as 419,000 new workers entered the workforce and the labor force participation rate increased to 63.1 percent. The participation level was up 0.2 percentage points from November and 0.4 percentage points compared with a year earlier.
A broader measure of unemployment that includes discouraged workers and those holding part-time jobs for economic reasons held steady at 7.6 percent.
In addition to the big job gains, wages jumped 3.2 percent from a year ago and 0.4 percent over the previous month. The year-over-year increase is tied with October for the best since April 2009. The average work week rose 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours.
Economists surveyed by Dow Jones had been expecting job growth of just 176,000, though they projected the unemployment rate to fall to 3.6 percent. The wage number also was well above expectations of 3 percent on the year and 0.3 percent from November.
Jamie DuPree of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution noted that part-time workers declined:
The U6 rate – considered the broadest measure of unemployment – ticked up slightly in December as well to 7.6 percent, but that’s still well below the 9.3 percent level when President Trump took office in January of 2017.
The number of people working part-time in December – because they could not find a full-time job – went down, as 124,000 people reported they had been able to move to a 40 hour a week job.
If January is a positive jobs month – and that could be clouded by the ongoing partial government shutdown – that would mark the 100th straight month of positive monthly job growth, which is an unusually long amount of time for the economy to keep chugging in the right direction.