Thursday, 17 January, 2019

US Economy Adds More Jobs Than Expected In December

U.S. Sees Exceptional Job Growth In December US job creation vaults higher in 2018
Orlando Vargas | 08 January, 2019, 10:16

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the economy added 312,000 new jobs in December - almost twice what Wall Street analysts had expected. This increase was mainly driven by an increase in labor force participation, as over 400,000 people joined the workforce during the month.

The unemployment rate, however, increased to 3.9%, up from 3.7% in November. This full year of major job and wage gains is worth celebrating. There were 6.3 million people looking for a job in December, down from 6.5 million a year ago. It is now saying that November's figure was really 149.951 million, an increase of +58,000. The report also suggested there was rising hope among job seekers. Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry increased by 306,000 jobs. "More importantly, this year of success for our workers needs to be built upon", he said. This number pushed overall average monthly job growth in 2018 to 220,000, higher than in 2017 or 2016 (and close to what it was in 2015, earlier in the recovery).

The U.S. central bank raised rates four times in 2018. There were also broad gains in hiring last month. Nominal average hourly earnings rose by 3.2 percent over the year.

Businesses are still searching for more workers. Economy-wide (excluding bosses), the pay hikes were +3.3% hourly and +3.0% weekly. Trade tensions with China and other countries could accelerate this slowdown, since President Trump's tariffs are raising the cost of doing business worldwide.

The BLS said the healthcare sector added 50,000 jobs in December and 346,000 jobs for the year, compared to just 284,000 new jobs in 2017.

As is usually the case, growth during the month was led by the service sector, which added 227,000 workers to payrolls during the months led by big gains in health care, education, and professional services. The inference is that the latest Xmas season was a more-than-usually-busy time for shopkeepers.

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A separate household survey released by BLS shows that although the unemployment rate increased by 0.2 percentage points (p.p.) to 3.9 percent in December, it went up for the right reasons: more workers are coming off the sidelines and looking for work, signaling that the US economy continues to hum along. That lifted the annual increase in wages to 3.2 percent, matching October's rise, which was the largest in 9-1/2 years.

Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey report for December speaks of total jobs north of the border creeping forward by only +9,000.

Apple's downbeat announcement sent its stock plunging 10 percent Thursday, but it was up almost 2 percent Friday morning. Jobs levels in following months are then expressed as a ratio of the base level or starting point.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that wages grew 0.4% in December, more than the 0.3% expected.

The markets have been turbulent amid concerns that the USA economy will be hurt by weakness in other countries. But in construction, and to an even greater extent manufacturing, Canada has not been keeping up on the jobs-creation front. If oil prices remain low, we expect hiring and investment in mining to stall.

Regionally, the lowest jobless rates in the country now are in British Columbia (4.4%), Ontario (5.4%) and Quebec (5.5%).

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