After Wednesday’s National Employment Report from ADP exceeded expectations by more than 60,000 jobs, it would have been disappointing if this morning’s report from the Labor Department showed numbers that were merely in line with economists’ predictions. Never fear: while economists polled by Reuters were looking for the addition of 195,000 jobs to nonfarm payrolls, the Employment Situation Summary reflected a blockbuster 292,000 added jobs. In addition, the previous two month’s numbers were revised upward by a combined 50,000 jobs.
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“In all, the nation added 2.65 million jobs in 2015, the second-best year for hiring since 1999 and one that improved markedly in the last quarter,” writes Chip Harlan at The Washington Post. “The economy added an average of 284,000 new monthly positions between October and December; in the first three-quarters of the year, the monthly pace was 200,000. Meantime, the unemployment rate stands at its lowest point in more than seven years.”
Employment increased last month in professional and business services (+73,000 jobs), construction (+45,000 jobs), healthcare (+39,000 jobs), food services and drinking places (+37,000 jobs), and transportation and warehousing (+23,000 jobs). Mining (-8,000 jobs) continued its decline, losing a total of 129,000 jobs for the year. Other industries changed little last month, including manufacturing, wholesale trade, retail trade, government, and financial activities.
Wages were essentially flat for the month, dipping by 1 cent to average hourly earnings of $25.24. Average hourly earnings for 2015 increased 2.5 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – the best in years, but not pre-recessionary levels.
“Wage gains were stronger in 2015 than any of the previous five years, but they remain historically modest,” write Eric Morath and Harriet Torry at The Wall Street Journal. “The average annual increase for non-managers in the 30 years prior to the start of the most recent recession was nearly 4%. Wages for production and nonsupervisory workers increased 2.4% in December from a year earlier.”
The PayScale Index, which measures the change in wages for employed U.S. workers, predicts a 1.4 percent increase in pay for the first quarter of 2016.
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