This morning’s release from the Labor Department showed an increase of 252,000 jobs, beating economists’ expectations of 240,000 added jobs, and a decline in the unemployment rate from 5.8 percent in November to 5.6 percent in December. This is the lowest unemployment rate since June, 2008. In addition, last month’s blockbuster report was revised upward from 321,000 jobs to 353,000 jobs. Wages, however, actually declined slightly from last month.
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Average hourly earnings fell by 5 cents for December, after gaining by 6 cents during the previous month.
“Eventually a healthier labor market should translate into decent wage growth,” said Elise Gould, a senior economist for the Economic Policy Institute, in a pre-release note, quoted by The New York Times. “The question is, when will workers start seeing the decent economic news reflected in their paychecks?”
The PayScale Index, which tracks the changes in wages for employed U.S. workers, forecasts a 0.3 percent year-over-year rise in pay for the fourth quarter of 2014, after 1.2 percent increase for the third quarter.
The largest job gains last month were in professional and business services (+52,000), construction (+48,000), food services and drinking places (+44,000), health care (+34,000), and manufacturing (+17,000). Retail trade, mining and logging, transportation and warehousing, information, and government were little changed.
Job growth across all industries averaged 246,000 per month for 2014, compared with 194,000 per month in 2013.
“ will be remembered as the year that the US went back to work,” wrote Joseph Lake, US analyst for The Economist Intelligence Unit, per Forbes. “The big question for 2015 is whether this job growth leads to a significant increase in salaries. Will this year be remembered as the time when Americans finally started to feel like the recovery was having a meaningful impact on their lives?”
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