U.S. economy adds 312,000 jobs in December

Unemployment at 3.9%, fastest growth since February 2018

The unemployment rate moved forward to 3.9% in December, according to the latest Employment Situation Summary report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

According to the report, the number of unemployed persons rose 276,000 jobs to 6.3 million in December.

LendingTree Chief Economist Tendayi Kapfidze said December job growth was the fastest since February.

“The 99th straight month of gains indicates that labor market remains robust and that the economy remains quite strong despite recent turmoil in the financial markets,” Kapfidze continued. “This release did not include the impacts of the government shut down and government jobs rose at the fastest pace since August.”

The jobless rates for all other groups, including men at 3.6%, women at 3.5%, teenagers at 12.5%, whites at 3.4%, blacks at 6.6%, Asians at 3.3% and Hispanics at 4.4% — these all showed little or no change over the month.

Total non-farm payroll employment increased by 312,000 in December.

It is worth noting, the change in total non-farm payroll employment in November was revised to 176,000 jobs, up from 155,000. Furthermore, the change for October was revised up from 237,000 to 274,000.

With these revisions, employment gains in October and November combined were 58,000 more than previously reported.

However, the number of long-term unemployed persons virtually held stagnant at 1.3 million in December, which accounted for 20.5% of the unemployed.

The average hourly earnings for all employees on private non-farm payrolls increased by 11 cents to $27.48. Over the year, average hourly earnings have climbed by 3.2%.

“In December, the tug-of-war between household income and mortgage rates that had been influencing consumer house-buying power took a hiatus. Instead, the decreasing rates and rising wages both helped to increase consumer house-buying power over the previous month,” First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming said.

The majority of job gains in December can be attributed to an increase in jobs in retail trade, health care, construction, food services and drinking places, and manufacturing.

Here are some of the areas which showed notable changes in December:

  • Employment in retail trade increased 24,000
  • Employment in food services and drinking places increased 41,000
  • Employment in healthcare increased 50,000
  • Employment in construction increased 38,000
  • Employment in manufacturing increased 32,000

The average workweek for all employees on private non-farm payrolls rose by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours in December.

Mortgage Bankers Association Chief Economist Mike Fratantoni said every aspect of the December jobs report was strong: more jobs, more people looking for work, and the fastest wage growth since 2009. 

“With the latest revisions, the average job growth over the last three months – at 254,000 – is remarkably strong,” Fratantoni continued. “This is good news for the housing market, where the strong job market boosts the confidence of potential homebuyers. The strong reading was certainly needed, given the incredible stock market volatility this past month.” 

“With mortgage rates about a half point lower than late last year, the Fed likely to move more slowly going forward, and home-price growth slowing a bit, today’s report points to a still strong job market that should support a solid spring housing market in 2019,” concluded.   

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