January 19, 2019

Stunning 312,00 jobs created in December, far above forecasts

07 January 2019, 11:40 | Austin Hogan

Modal Trigger People stand in line to apply for jobs at a fair in Miami Lakes Florida. AP

People stand in line to apply for jobs at a fair in Miami Lakes Florida

Filings for US unemployment benefits rose to a four-week high at year's end, amid holidays that tend to make the figures more volatile and a partial government shutdown that may have spurred federal workers to request funds.

"The labor market is very strong even though the economy appears to be slowing", said Eric Winograd, senior USA economist at the investment management firm AllianceBernstein. A reading above 50 in the ISM index indicates an expansion in manufacturing, which accounts for about 12 percent of the USA economy. Concerns about the economy's health are escalating despite the labor market remaining strong. That would amount to 1.87 million for 2019, less than the 2.27 million added in the first 11 months of 2018. Average hourly pay was up 3.2% compared to a year earlier.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.9 percent, but that reflected a surge in jobseekers - a positive for growth.

Amherst Pierpont - 200,000 jobs, 3.6 percent unemployment, 3 percent annual wage growth. The average workweek increased to 34.5 hours in December from 34.4 hours in November.

"There is no preset path for policy and particularly with the muted inflation readings that we've seen coming in, we will be patient as we watch to see how the economy evolves", Powell said at the American Economic Association's annual meeting in Atlanta.

The economy added 312,000 jobs in December, the report said. The Dow suffered its worst December decline since the middle of the Great Depression in 1931 as surveys of economists and business leaders suggested the United States could be in a recession by 2020. The strong wage gain makes a policy change unlikely. Still, growth is likely to slow as the stimulus from last year's tax cuts wane.

The U.S. government shutdown and Trump's attacks on the Fed and its chairman over the central bank's rate increases have also anxious investors, though Powell may have eased some of those concerns Friday when he stressed that he would not resign if the president told him to do so.

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The report eases fears that the USA job market might be headed for a slowdown.

Hiring last month was likely across all sectors. Last week included Christmas and preceded New Year's Day.

"Markets will probably be miserable no matter what the outcome", said Dan North, chief economist at Euler Hermes North America in Baltimore.

The ripple effects from slower growth overseas could eventually hurt the USA economy, David Dollar, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told NPR's Scott Horsley. It is expected to slow to around 150,000 per month this year as workers become more scarce.

Data this week showed factory activity weakened across much of Europe and Asia in December, with Chinese manufacturing contracting for the first time in 19 months. Economists estimate that it requires roughly 100,000 job gains each month to satisfy population growth and keep the unemployment rate at its current level. Retailers hired 23,800 more workers.

Jobs in health care increased by 50,000 last month, with most of the employment centered around ambulatory care and hospitals.

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