The U.S. economy continued to defy international trends by adding a robust 292,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department reported Friday, a 40,000 increase from the previous month and nearly 100,000 more than projected. But, wages trended downward, again.
Labor also reported the unemployment rate at 5 percent, unchanged from November. Average hourly salaries dropped 1 penny. November’s wage gains were a nickel and the year-end wage growth rose 2.5 percent. It was the second time in since the Great Recession ended that wage growth topped 2.5 percent. However, that number is still fully 1 percent lower than what economists typically call symptomatic of a healthy economy.
Analysts expected job creation to land around 200,000 jobs for December paired with an unchanged unemployment rate and an increase in hourly wages, according to a Bloomberg survey of economists.
Year-end job growth totaled 2.7 million on the year, a 400,000 drop from 2014 and a sign that international trends have had some impact on the American economy.
But they haven’t accelerated. Wage growth has been the slowest since the recovery began over six years ago, a factor that has resulted in many people who held higher-paying jobs to take lower-paying ones or settle for part-time or temporary work.
Further, the Commerce Department’s report last week that GDP increased just 2 percent, down from the 3.9 percent in the second quarter, and unchanged from the previous quarterly estimate released, shows that the economic problems in China and Europe could have a lasting impact on America’s economy.
While the unemployment rate remains lows, labor force participation indicated the number may be much higher. Decembers for participation levels were reported at 62.6 percent, the among lowest it has been in 40 years.