Published: Tue, January 09, 2018
Economy | By Shawn Conner

Slow December rounds out strong year for U.S. jobs

Slow December rounds out strong year for U.S. jobs

The US economy added 148,000 jobs in December, fewer than expected, according to a report Friday from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Realtor.com chief economist Dr. Joesph Kirchner said, "November's increase in construction labor is a hopeful reminder that things will eventually get better for our severely depleted housing market".

But with the country believed to be near full employment, the jobless rate still held steady at its 17-year low of 4.1 percent.

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Through a year ago, the black unemployment rate rose to 8 percent in March and fell back to 7 percent in September before falling again in December. The just-enacted US tax cuts, too, are raising hopes for faster growth and higher corporate profits and fueling a powerful stock market rally. For all of 2017, construction employment increased by 210,000, compared to 155,000 in 2016, while manufacturing saw a gain of 196,000, about the same as the prior year.

The unemployment rate for African-Americans reached a record low of 6.8 percent in December. "Job creation, wage growth, and retirement savings drive prosperity and financial security".

However, companies nationwide keep struggling to fill roles, citing tight labor markets, retiring baby boomers and failed drug tests. The economy created 2.06 million jobs past year. Wages still aren't growing as quickly as the Federal Reserve would like, one reason so many Americans still feel left out of the recovery from the Great Recession.The United States added nearly 3 million jobs in 2014, 2.7 million in 2015 and 2.2 million in 2016. Retail payrolls fell by 20,300 in December, the largest drop since March, despite reports of a strong holiday shopping season. Manufacturing is being supported by a strengthening global economy and a weakening dollar. Heading into 2018, it looks like the demand for workers will remain vigorous, but employment growth is likely to slow further, reflecting the lack of available workers. Last month's pace of hiring is enough, over time, to lower the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate fell by 0.6 percentage points in 2017, more than double the improvement projected by the Fed entering 2017. Payroll growth averaged 171,000 per month past year, down slightly from 187,000 in 2016. General merchandise stores payrolls tumbled by 27,300 in December, with employment at clothing stores dropping by 3,800 jobs.

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"It's a disappointment in the headline but on the other hand, lower payroll growth is exactly what we expect", said Josh Wright, the chief economist at iCIMS.

Both Chamberlain and North noted that, although average wage growth lags expectations, increases at the median are healthier. The industry added 196,000 jobs previous year, compared to a loss of 16,000 positions in 2016.

Worker pay also depends on productivity, or how efficient employees are.

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