U.S. Adds Whopping 312K Jobs in December

Pay—especially for low-wage workers—continues to climb

By Roy Maurer January 4, 2019

Labor market economists were expecting a strong finish to 2018, but the latest employment report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) blows those forecasts out of the water.

U.S. employers added 312,000 jobs in December 2018, capping a spectacular year of job growth. Wages rose 3.2 percent year-over-year, and the unemployment rate ticked back up to 3.9 percent as more people returned to the labor force.

The economy added 2.6 million jobs in 2018, besting the previous two years for growth.

"2018 closed out with a bang," said Martha Gimbel, research director for Indeed's Hiring Lab. "The jobs number … left many of us speechless," she said. "Job growth last month pushed overall average monthly job growth in 2018 to 220,000, close to what it was in 2015, earlier in the recovery." 

Moody's Analytics and the ADP Research Institute reported Jan. 3 that private-sector employment grew by a significant 271,000 jobs in December, based on ADP payroll data from over 400,000 organizations in the U.S.

"Businesses continue to add aggressively to their payrolls despite the stock market slump and the trade war [with China]," said Mark Zandi, Moody's chief economist. "Favorable December weather also helped lift the job market," he added.

Michael Farren, a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, noted that employers hired over 40 percent more people than generally expected, and the employment totals from October and November were increased by 58,000 jobs.

"The strong ADP report and today's BLS report should assuage fears about a slowdown in the labor market," said Julia Pollak, labor economist at online employment marketplace ZipRecruiter. "Job growth on Main Street continues to be robust, despite uncertainty on Wall Street," she said, referring to the fourth-quarter 2018 stock market slide that began in October.

Gimbel pointed out that the good news likely can't last. "Eventually, job growth is going to start slowing down," she said. "When that happens, we shouldn't panic. In the meantime, we should enjoy the ride."

Posted 11:00 AM

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