Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Washington, DC, United States (4E) – American workers saw their pay increase at the fastest pace since 2009 in December while nonfarm payrolls increased by 312,000, said the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
On the other hand, the jobless rate rose from a five-decade low to 3.9 percent, reflecting more people actively seeking work.
BLS reported that average hourly earnings jumped 3.2 percent in December from a year ago and 0.4 percent over the previous month. The year-over-year increase for December is tied with October for the best since April 2009. The wage number also was well above economists’ expectations of 3% on the year and 0.3 percent from November.
More good news: average hourly earnings for production and non- supervisory workers rose 3.3% from a year earlier. Worker pay has risen gradually during most of the economic expansion, reflecting a persistent effort by companies to attract and retain workers.
BLS data also showed private payrolls rising by 301,000, well above the median estimate of 185,000. Government payrolls increased by 11,000.
The robust job market in December reflected higher wages and labor-force participation. Analysts, however, are concerned the gradual slowdown in the economy this year might see an end to both strong job growth and higher wages.
Economists had been expecting job growth of just 176,000 jobs, and projected the unemployment rate to fall to 3.6 percent.
“The far bigger than expected 312,000 jump in non-farm payrolls in December would seem to make a mockery of market fears of an impending recession,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist at Capital Economics. He said the report suggests the US economy still has considerable forward momentum.
Healthcare led the way in new jobs, adding 50,000 for December on account of 38,000 new positions in ambulatory services and 7,000 more in hospitals. The industry saw a boom of 346,000 in 2018 compared with a 284,000 gain in 2017.
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