U.S. Added 312,000 Jobs in December; Unemployment at 3.9%


By Natalie Kitroeff, The New York Times (NYT)

Jan. 4, 2019


The Labor Department released its official hiring and unemployment figures for December on Friday morning, offering the latest picture of the American economy.


The Numbers


■ 312,000 jobs were added last month. Wall Street analysts had anticipated an increase of about 180,000. Including revisions, the monthly average for October, November and December was 254,000.


■ The unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent. November’s jobless rate was 3.7 percent.


■ The average hourly wage rose by 3.2 percent from a year earlier.


The Takeaway


In the last couple of months, as stocks swayed and concern over the prospect of a recession ensued, the labor market was relatively steady. Sure, the job numbers in November were softer than in previous months, but that is to be expected this late in a recovery.


Over all, employers added more jobs in 2018 than they did in 2017. But last year was unique, because Congress passed a big corporate tax cut that essentially bathed a sizzling economy in lighter fluid. Optimism among consumers and businesses soared. Manufacturers and builders kept hiring despite trade tensions and a slowdown in the housing market.


“People got used to these eye-popping job-growth numbers,” said Martha Gimbel, director of research for the job-search site Indeed. Even if hiring slows in the coming months, she said, “it doesn’t mean that anything’s wrong, it just means we are heading back to normal.”


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