The unemployment rate held steady at a 50-year low of 3.5% in December as the economy added jobs and wage growth slowed, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Total non-farm payroll employment increased by 145,000, and the number of unemployed persons remained unchanged at 5.8 million, according to the report.

The jobless rates for groups – including men at 3.1%, women at 3.2%, teenagers at 12.6%, whites at 3.2%, blacks at 5.9%, Asians at 2.5% and Hispanics at 4.2% – all showed little or no change over the month.

“This morning’s jobs report does little to change expectations for the economy heading into 2020,” said Doug Duncan, Fannie Mae’s chief economist. “Driven by robust gains in retail trade, nonfarm payrolls grew by 145,000 in December, slightly less than expected but strong enough to not raise concerns about continued support for the economic expansion.”

The change in total non-farm payroll employment in November was revised down from 266,000 to 256,000, the report said.  Total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised to 152,000 jobs, down from 156,000.

With these revisions, employment gains in October and November combined were 14,000 less than previously reported.

However, the number of long-term unemployed persons held its ground at 1.2 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 3 cents to $28.32. Over the year, average hourly earnings climbed 2.9%.

In December, the majority of job gains can be attributed to an increase in jobs in retail trade, health care, and leisure and hospitality.

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

  • Employment in retail trade increased by 41,000 jobs
  • Employment in healthcare increased by 28,000 jobs
  • Employment in leisure and hospitality increased by 40,000 jobs

The average workweek for all employees on private non-farm payrolls held steady at 34.5 hours in December.

“The December jobs report was a mediocre one, with job gains coming in on the low side of the range of expectations, downward revisions to prior month gains, and wage growth dropping below 3% for the first time since mid-2018,” said Curt Long, the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions‘ chief economist and vice president of research.

“The labor market is still on solid footing with low unemployment and a labor force participation rate that is near its post-recession peak,” Long said. “Overall, this report will reinforce the Fed’s view that the economy is currently neither too hot nor too cold.”

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