The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the economy added 312,000 jobs in December, with nearly the same number of additional workers entering the labor force. The unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent, but that's because more people came off the sidelines to look for jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. Average hourly earnings are expected to have climbed 3 percent from a year ago, up from a year-over-year gain of 2.7 percent at the end of 2017.
The strong employment report likely keeps the Federal Reserve on course to continue raising interest rate this year, deepening its rift with Wall Street and Trump, who has chastised the Fed and its chairman, Jerome Powell, repeatedly for the rate increases.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 600 points as total non-farm payroll employment increased by 312,000 in December, well above consensus estimates of 177,000 jobs created. Manufacturing employment increased by 284,000 jobs over the year, the report said.
But the expected continuation of steady job growth suggests that such risks might be - for the moment, anyway - overblown.
"Friday's payrolls numbers suggest a healthier USA economy than some investors had anticipated", it said. Manufacturing jobs grew by 32,000 last month, construction climbed 38,000, retail was up almost 24,000, health care rose almost 58,000, and leisure and hospitality jumped 55,000.
Job gains were reported across all industries, with the exception of the information sector, which shed employment for the second straight month. For the year, the trucking industry added 36,600 jobs in 2018, up from 9,400 added in 2017 and is the best year for hiring within trucking since the 50,400 jobs added in 2014. Hiring and wage gains will support consumer spending and offer some respite after a spate of weak economic data and cuts in corporate revenue forecasts fueled stock-market jitters.
Kevin Hassett, one of Trump's economic advisers, predicted that if it continued, the current government shutdown would push those job numbers down to a lower level in January.
The average monthly increase in USA construction jobs in 2018 was +23,000, which was +12.0% higher than 2017's average monthly increase of +21,000. Over the course of the year, multiple new records for low unemployment rates within demographic groups were set.
Paychecks grew as employers raised wages to attract new workers.
Manufacturing added 32,000 jobs in December, including more than 19,000 jobs in durable goods and more than 7,000 in fabricated metal products.
For "hard hat" workers excluding supervisory personnel, the latest year-over-year compensation boosts were even more robust, +4.2% hourly and +4.5% weekly. Restaurants and bars added 41,000 jobs.
The large month-to-month gain in jobs in December understates the overall improvement, since there was also a substantial positive revision to prior data.
The economy needs to add 80,000 jobs a month just to maintain current staffing levels, said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, an worldwide consulting firm.
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