The monthly jobs report from the Labor Department beat economists’ expectations, with non-farm payrolls adding 312,000 jobs in December. Prior to the release of the report, economists surveyed by Bloomberg forecast the addition of 184,000 jobs.
“It’s much higher than expected,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at ZipRecruiter, speaking with The New York Times. “The overall picture is that there is strong job growth on Main Street and it continues to be quite robust, despite uncertainty on Wall Street.”
Unemployment rose to 3.9 percent last month as labor force participation increased to 63.1 percent. An additional 419,000 workers entered the workforce in December.
Wages also increased last month. Average hourly earnings at private-sector employers rose 11 cents to $27.48. Over the past 12 months, earnings increased 3.2 percent or 84 cents per hour on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The PayScale Index, which measures the change in wages for employed U.S. workers, showed 0.4 percent year-over-year growth for Q3 2018. Real wages, the value of workers’ pay with inflation taken into account, have declined 9.5 percent since 2006.
Where Jobs Are Growing
Several industries added jobs last month, including:
- Health care (+50,000 jobs)
- Professional and business services (+43,000 jobs)
- Food services and drinking places (+41,000 jobs)
- Construction (+38,000 jobs)
- Manufacturing (+32,000 jobs)
- Retail trade (+24,000 jobs)
Other industries changed little for the month, including mining, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, information and government.
“The results of Friday’s job report do not capture any impact from the ongoing partial government shutdown, which began after the Labor Department conducted the survey,” noted Emily McCormick at Yahoo Finance. “An extended shutdown, however, could go on to affect January’s figures.”
The Year Ahead
Economists polled by Bloomberg are forecasting a slower year for job growth in 2019. They predict average monthly gains of 156,000 jobs next year, compared to average monthly gains of 220,000 jobs in 2018.
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