(Washington, D.C.) December’s overall stock market performance and the daily ups and downs of the market along with various economic indicators, have created concern about the overall economy. But just when people were not sure which way things were headed, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released the December 2018 jobs report with numbers that were completely unexpected.
Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 312,000 in December, and the unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent from 3.7 percent with job gains in health care, food services and drinking places, construction, manufacturing, and the retail trade.
Overall, the report helped address murmuring of a sharp economic slowdown. While 2018 closed with a 5.2% drop in the S & P 500, these job numbers make it hard to believe that an economic slowdown on the horizon.
Most economists had only expected 176,000 jobs for the period based on forecasts by the BOL. The average monthly job gains in 2018 was 220,000, which is the fastest average pace since 2015.
Wages also increased by 3.2 percent from a year ago, making wage growth in December at par with October for the largest year-over-year increase since April 2009.
Details about the Jobs Numbers
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.6 percent) and Blacks (6.6 percent) increased in December. The jobless rates for adult women (3.5 percent), teenagers (12.5 percent), Whites (3.4 percent), Asians (3.3 percent), and Hispanics (4.4 percent) showed little or no change over the month.
Among the unemployed, the number of job leavers increased by 142,000 in December to 839,000. Job leavers are unemployed persons who quit or otherwise voluntarily left their previous job and immediately beg an looking for new employment.
In December, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 1.3 million and accounted for 20.5 percent of the unemployed. Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed was down by 205,000.
The labor force participation rate, at 63.1 percent, changed little in December, and the employment-population ratio
was 60.6 percent for the third consecutive month. Both measures were up by 0.4 percentage point over the year.
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers), at 4.7 million, changed little in December but was down by 329,000 over the year. These are individuals whowould have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.
In December, 1.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed from a year earlier. (Data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals that are not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.
Among the marginally attached, there were 375,000 discouraged workers in December, down by 99,000 from a year earlier. (Data are not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.2 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in December had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.