The economy added 145,000 jobs in December, capping a decade of solid job creation and robust wage growth but falling just shy of economist expectations of 160,000.
The government’s monthly jobs report, released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, also showed that the nation’s unemployment rate remains unchanged, at a 50-year low of 3.5 percent.
Wage growth fell below the 3-percent mark for the first time since July 2018. Hourly wages rose by just 3 cents in December, or 2.9 percent annually, having gained steadily for the past three years.
While Friday’s figures mark the ninth straight year that the economy has added more than 2 million jobs, employment gains for 2019 represent the slowest annual pace since 2011. The economy added a monthly average of 176,000 jobs in 2019, compared to 223,000 per month in 2018.
December's job gains pale in comparison to November’s whopping total of 266,000, a number that economists partly contributed to returning workers from General Motors after a 40-day strike. The BLS downsized that figure on Friday by 10,000, making November's total 256,000 and revising October's figure downwards from 156,000 jobs to 142,000.
"We shouldn’t be panicked or surprised when the jobs numbers swing and miss," said Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group. "Until we begin to see miss after miss regularly, one less-than-stellar jobs report shouldn’t cause any major concerns. We really only need to add 100,000 jobs per month to keep pace with population growth, so when you keep that in mind and look at the jobs data over the past year, the labor market looks even more impressive."
December’s lower monthly employment total is partially indicative of the difficulty in finding the best candidate amid a tight labor market where job seekers hold the upper edge. The Federal Reserve noted in a recent survey that businesses were having “difficulties in finding qualified workers.”
Manufacturing saw a loss of 12,000 jobs, bringing the annual total to just 46,000 positions created, compared to 246,000 in 2018.
Friday's data snapshot showed that the leisure and hospitality sector added 40,000 jobs, health care added 28,000, and construction saw a gain of 20,000. Manufacturing saw a loss of 12,000 jobs, bringing the annual total to just 46,000 positions created, compared to 246,000 in 2018.
Wall Street barely blinked at the BLS data Friday morning, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average hovering just short of a record high of 29,000. Geopolitics have roiled global markets this week, as investors took shelter from escalating tensions in the Mideast, piling into gold and other safe havens. A relief rally followed, as the U.S.-Iran conflict eased, pushing all three indices to record highs.