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U.S. added 292,000 jobs in December; unemployment rate remains 5 percent

Impressively, the U.S. economy finished off 2015 on a hiring spree, adding 292,000 new jobs in December, the government said Friday.

The Labor Department said that the unemployment rate remained a steady 5 percent but that was largely due to more people looking for work rather than adding jobs, according to The New York Times.

Nevertheless, the latest jobs report exceeded economists’ and investors’ expectations and provided some reassurance about the labor market’s elasticity despite fickle oil prices, modest overall growth at home, China’s slowdown and more.

In total, the U.S. added 2.65 million jobs in 2015. This year proved to be the second-best hiring year since 1999.

On average, the economy added 284,000 new monthly positions between October and December. But in the first three-quarters of the year, the monthly pace was only 200,000.

The unemployment rate is sitting at its lowest percentage in more than seven years, according to The Washington Post. And the jobless rate, continues to linger just above what economists call full employment–the point where any further decline would increase inflation.

“I think this really is illustrative of the fact that economic momentum in the United States is still awfully strong,” said Carl Tannenbaum, chief economist at Northern Trust. “In spite of the craziness we’ve seen from Asian markets this week, the fundamentals here at home are still solid.”

The Federal Reserve raised interest rates in December for the first time in almost 10 years, removing the easy terms of borrowing that aided the economy’s stimulation. The Federal Reserve’s 10-member voting committee said that the labor market showed “further improvement” and “confirmed that underutilization of labor resources had diminished appreciably since early this year.”

Though there is a growing confidence in the economy, there are still some lofty concerns. For instance, wages were still flat in December, information on China’s economic slowdown could affect the U.S. and the Dow Jones Industrial average has decreased more than 5 percent in this week’s first four days of trading.

December’s jobs data illustrated a labor market that is growing steadily but giving only modest wage gains to employees. Last month, the average hourly wage actually fell by a penny to $25.24.

Since January 2015, wages are up by 2.5 percent, which is below the pace from just before the Great Recession.

But a huge question right now is whether the U.S.’s overall growth will stay strong enough to continue hiring or whether issues in China and in the global economy will affect the American economy by holding exports down and undercutting struggling manufacturers further, The Times reports.

“We certainly see the impact of global conditions in the manufacturing sector, where the strong dollar and weak commodities prices have diminished momentum substantially,” said Tannenbaum, “but the service side of the American economy is progressing unabated.”

A chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, Mark Zandi, said that “there are a lot of crosscurrents.” He added that “anything trade-sensitive is getting hammered because of what’s going on overseas.”

Nonetheless, he is still excited about job creation.

“The remarkable thing is how consistent employment growth has been over the past three or four years,” said Zandi. “We’re getting at least 200,000 jobs per month on a consistent basis. That’s quite an achievement.”

About Meredith Rodefer

Meredith Rodefer
Meredith Rodefer is a freelance writer, who focuses on anything from lifestyle blogging to hard news, and dancer. Beyond Youth Independent, she has written for sites such as Natmonitor.com, CheekyChicago.com and FamilyFocusBlog.com. Contact Meredith: meredith.rodefer@youthindependent.com