U.S. gains 148000 jobs in December, unemployment still 4.1%

U.S. gains 148000 jobs in December, unemployment still 4.1%

U.S. gains 148000 jobs in December, unemployment still 4.1%

USA payroll gains slowed by more than forecast in December, wages picked up slightly and the jobless rate held at the lowest level since 2000, adding to signs of a full-employment economy. Some economists think that the official rate of unemployment can fall further - say, to 4 percent - before inflation concerns need to be addressed. It was the seventh year in a row that the economy generated more than 2 million jobs. Average hourly earnings actually decelerated from a 2.9-percent year-over-year gain in December 2016 to a 2.5-percent figure last month.

"You're seeing a bigger share of prime-age Americans working this month, and that trend is moving up pretty sharply", said LinkedIn economist Guy Berger, who added that an increase in more people switching jobs rather than re-entering the workforce after an absence could mask a greater increase in employer demand than the Labor Department numbers reflect. Retailers cut 20,300 positions during the height of the holiday-shopping season, bringing total gains among service providers to 91,000, down from 176,000 in November.

The U.S. expansion has put millions of people back to work and economists agree that the economy is now at or close to full employment. "[Job creation] is fast enough to keep up with population growth and even pull some workers in off the sidelines-but it is, notably, the slowest year for job growth since 2010", she said in a statement.

Unlike the commonly reported unemployment rate, which tracks a segment of workers within the labor force, the labor participation rate tracks the size of the workforce itself. The national unemployment rate was 4.1 percent.

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The better-than-expected pace of net hiring past year allowed for more tightening in the labor market than anticipated.

However, companies nationwide keep struggling to fill roles, citing tight labor markets, retiring baby boomers and failed drug tests.

A separate report on Friday was also disappointing, as the Institute for Supply Management's index of US service industries fell to a four-month low amid a slowdown in orders. Payroll growth averaged 171,000 per month previous year, down slightly from 187,000 in 2016. Employment gains were largely broad-based in December. For all of 2017, construction employment increased by 210,000, compared to 155,000 in 2016, while manufacturing saw a gain of 196,000, about the same as the prior year. Manufacturing employment increased by 25,000 jobs. Job growth remains steady and is underpinning an economy that's both contributing to and benefiting from an improved global outlook. Employment in the utilities sector fell for a second straight month.

Business and professional services jobs rose 527,000 for the year, about the same as 2016, while retail jobs declined 67,000 after adding 203,000 a year earlier. Macys Inc also announced 11 store closures, which could leave 5,000 workers unemployed.

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