U.S. employers added 156,000 jobs in December, capping a year of slower but solid hiring and providing the last major snapshot of the economy President-elect Donald Trump will inherit from President Barack Obama.
The Associated Press reports this morning’s report from the U.S. Labor Department portrays a job market that remains durable nearly eight years after the recovery from the Great Recession began. Though the unemployment rate rose to 4.7% from a nine-year low of 4.6%, it did so for an encouraging reason: More people began looking for work. Because not all of them found jobs immediately, more people were counted as unemployed in December.
Hourly pay jumped 2.9% from a year earlier, the sharpest increase in more than seven years. That is a positive sign that the low unemployment rate is forcing some businesses to offer higher wages to attract and keep workers. Sluggish growth in Americans’ paychecks has been a longstanding weak spot in the economic recovery.
For all of 2016, job growth averaged 180,000 a month, down from 229,000 in 2015, but enough to lower unemployment over time.
“While job growth has slowed somewhat, this is likely more due to a shortage of qualified workers rather than a lack of confidence among business leaders,” says Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.