WASHINGTON — The U.S. December employment report was largely as expected, showing a still high 7.8% unemployment rate and a modest 155,000 gain in payrolls, both too weak to suggest economic takeoff.
In addition to the December payrolls number of a 155,000 rise, the November-October revisions on net were plus 14,000. The Q4 average gain in payrolls was a 151,000 increase, after climbing an average 168,000 a month in Q3.
The unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.8% and new seasonal adjustments did not affect the picture of a too-high rate and a too-slow decline. December's unemployment rate was getting very close to the next higher number as it was 7.849% before rounding. The high number of unemployed persons was generic; labor force participation was steady.
Hours and wages gained in December, suggesting rising incomes and production.
The payroll composition in December was mixed: manufacturing rose 25,000, construction posted a 30,000 gain, retail declined 11,300 (clothing stores fell 19,000), temporary help dipped 600, healthcare increased 55,000, finance added 9,000, restaurants surged by 38,000, and government was off 13,000 (local education at an 11,500 decrease accounted for the bulk of the decline, possibly a quirk around the holidays).
Overall, jobs are gaining. But some of these are not strong jobs (e.g. in health and restaurants). And the pace of job creation remains well below normal.
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