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US employment remains strong, 145,000 jobs added in December

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    FILE - In this Sept. 18, 2019, file photo people stand in line to inquire about jobs available at the Bean Automotive Group during a job fair in Miami. On Friday, Jan. 10, 2020, the U.S. government issues the December jobs report. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

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    FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2019, file photo, Gabriel Picon, right, talks with a representative from GameStop during a job fair at Dolphin Mall in Miami. On Friday, Jan. 10, the U.S. government issues the December jobs report. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

Published January 11. 2020 06:01AM

WASHINGTON (AP) — U.S. employers added 145,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate held steady at 3.5%, signaling that the job market remains strong at the start of 2020 even if hiring and wage gains have slowed somewhat more than a decade into an economic expansion.

Friday’s snapshot from the Labor Department showed hiring slipped from robust gains of 256,000 in November, which were given a boost by the end of a strike at General Motors. For the year, employers added an average of roughly 175,000 jobs per month, compared with about 223,250 per month in 2018.

Annual wage growth fell in December to 2.9%, down from an annualized average of 3.3% a year earlier, a possible sign that some slack remains in the labor market and that unemployment could fall even further from its current half-century low.

The picture of a slowly-but-steadily improving economy – plus low inflation – likely gives the Federal Reserve comfort in keeping interest rates low, which has been a boon to stock markets. The Dow Jones Industrial Average closed Friday with a slight loss of 0.3% after briefly climbing to a record-level of 29,000 in the morning.

“We’re starting 2020 in very good shape,” said Gus Faucher, chief economist at PNC Financial Services. “We should see continued economic expansion throughout 2020 driven by consumers.”

The state of the job market has become a pivotal division between President Donald Trump and his Democratic challengers. Trump can campaign on the low unemployment rate and job growth as he seeks a second term. Democrats, seeking to oust him, will point to wages that have not taken off in a meaningful for many Americans coping with high costs for medical care and higher education.

This is the last jobs report before the Iowa caucus in February that will serve as a first step for choosing the Democratic presidential nominee.

The prospect of a stable job market, a pick-up in global growth, supportive central banks, an easing of trade tensions and U.S. economic growth of around 2% should be a positive for this year.

“We really have the wind at our backs going into 2020,” said Julia Pollak, a labor economist at the employment marketplace ZipRecruiter.

Yet job growth has failed so far to translate into substantially better hourly pay. There is the potential that wages jumped in January as many states adjusted their minimum wages.

Some businesses in competitive industries are already taking steps to prepare for wage competition this year. The Big Blue Swim School based in Chicago vies with day cares, learning centers and gyms for its instructors. The chain has five sites employing on average 30 people and plans to open five more schools this year and 17 in 2021. But it had to dramatically boost wages in order to attract staff for that expansion.

“We gave all of our front-line employees a 10% or 11% raise because of the fear we have about the wage pressures in the economy,” said CEO Chris Kenny. “We can’t meet our business goal without great staff.”

Irina Novoselsky, CEO of the jobs site CareerBuilder, said that more employers are offering non-wage benefits such as the chance to work remotely to potential workers and becoming less focused on educational credentials when hiring.

“The major fact that is pushing the trend is the labor shortage in America,” she said. “Companies are being forced to provide that flexibility.”

The U.S. economy added 2.1 million jobs last year, down from gains of nearly 2.7 million in 2018. Hiring may have slowed because the number of unemployed people seeking work has fallen by 540,000 people over the past year to 5.75 million. With fewer unemployed people hunting for jobs, there is a potential limit on job gains.

The steady hiring growth during the expansion has contributed to gains in consumer spending. Retail sales during the crucial holiday shopping improved 3.4% compared to the prior year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. This likely contributed to a surge of hiring in retail as that sector added 41,200 jobs in December.

The leisure and hospitality sector — which includes restaurants and hotels — added another 40,000 jobs. Health care and social assistance accounted 33,900 new jobs.

Still, the report suggests a lingering weakness in manufacturing.

Factories shed 12,000 jobs in December, after the end of the GM strike produced gains of 58,000 in November. Manufacturing companies added just 46,000 jobs in all of 2019.

Manufacturing struggled last year because of trade tensions between the United States and China coupled with slower global economic growth.

Safety problems at Boeing have also hurt orders for aircraft and parts and that could restrict hiring at factories in 2020. While the jobs report painted a healthy picture of the economy, the manufacturing sector took a blow Friday as the Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems announced layoffs for 2,800 workers in Kansas.

Comments
Certainly good news.....I don't dispute these facts.....So Carbon
and Monroe Employers, could you spare a little of that good news with your employees.
On Local PBS Channels next week. WVIA -Frontline - "America's Great Divide" - January 13th Part 1, and January 14th part 2. Check for your Northeast Channel.

Not as great as the writer made it seem. Projected job growth was higher than the actual results which is why the market dropped. Manufacturing lost jobs in December which should caution us a bit. Last year saw a good deal more job growth so year over year is weakening. Any acceleration of hostilities in the middle East will weigh the economy down further.
Thanks for the rain Joe. We can always count on doom and gloom from the libs. Our workforce can't keep up with the rapid growth of jobs! This will allow welcoming legitimate and legal migration, just what Democrats cry about.
Also... The trend is moving back to life! Less abortions helps move us toward, not away from sustainable birth rate. America is back to life in more ways than one!
Let's Keep America Great!
Vote to stay the coarse.
Trump Pence 2020
Joe,
You are good at coming up on the wrong side. May I remind you of your nagging request for evidence that the Iranian People found content and comfort in the assasination of Solemani. Look up PMOI (MEK)
National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) Deputy Director Alireza Jafarzadeh told Fox News in an interview. “While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country,” he said. “They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!”
That was before they shot down the 737-800.
HEADLINE: Trump issues warning to Iran: 'Do not kill your protesters ... the USA is watching'
Not the way you and the rest of the "We Hate Trump" tribe wanted things. As expected, Ole Black Face Trudeau along with U.S. Democrats are pointing the finger at Donald Trump for the Iranian missile that brought down the Ukrainian plane. That is why Democrats are going to be spanked in 2020. You people with TDS continue to look like fools, and those of us on the side of truth... Win!
Truth prevails... always.
Trump actually is a hero, and he's reacting to the Iranian Regime as a hero would.
CNN didn't inform you, but, Iranian Protesters Demand Khamenei Step Down over Plane Downing, and Trump backs them up! Couldn't have ended any better than that Joe.
To quote your girl Hillary...
"What difference, at this point, does it matter"
Stop it! The Iranians will be free of the bought and paid for oppression that Barack, Hillary, Kerry, and Susan Rice sponsored. Obama is responsible for shooting down that jet. The missile was purchased with some of that pallet cash!
Obama has yet more blood on his hands.
What difference, at this point, does it matter?
Keep America Great
Trump/Pence 2020
Update:
1/16/2020
IT’S OFFICIAL: DOW Closes Over 29,000 For First Time Ever – Greatest Market Rally in US History Continues!
Making America Greater than anything the socialist Democrat could ever do.
Yes and I read in mid December that auto sales were down. I noticed the many auto sales/incentives they pushed over the Holidays and into the new year.
Might be a good time to purchase.
Trump's overhaul of the U.S. tax code afforded a very good 2018 for the industry, as Trump put more money in the hands of the consumers. There wasn't going to be a repeat for 2019. The economy is very strong, still.
Trump has our Country in major Debt.
Nov 2019 -Corporate Debt nears $10 Trillion per David J. Lynch.
UPDATE:
January 10th saw an escalation in anti-government protests in Iran. Today 1/15/2020, some analysts believe Iran's Islamic regime is more vulnerable than at any time since its founding in 1979.
This is good for the people of Iran to free themselves from Theocracy, and move in to a Democracy. It didn't take pallets of cash, only leadership from the United States, who never had to draw that Red Line.
In God We Trust

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