Labor Market Closes Out Year on an Upswing

Despite a slowdown in the economy, the job market showed strength in December, according to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

Despite a slowdown in the economy, the job market showed strength in December, with nonfarm employment increasing by 167,000 in December and the unemployment rate remaining unchanged at 4.5 percent, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report released January 5.

The increase of 167,000, which brought the work force to 136.2 million, followed increases of 86,000 in October and 154,00 in November.

The unemployment rate declined 7.3 million, down from 4.9 percent, in 2005. Currently, 6.8 million individuals are unemployed, or 4 percent among adult men, 3.9 percent among adult women, 4 percent among whites, 8.4 among blacks, 4.9 percent among Hispanics and 2.9 percent among Asians, showing little or no change.

Several service-providing sectors showed the strongest gains in December, including professional and business services (gain of 50,000), health care (adding 31,000 jobs) and food services (gain of 23,000 jobs).

Architectural and engineering services as well as computer systems design and related services employment continued its upward trend. Telecommunications employment was up by 6,000 in December but essentially unchanged over 2005. Temporary work services were little changed from the year before.

Average hourly earnings rose by 8 cents, or 0.5 percent, to $17.04 in December. Hourly wages were up 4.2 percent from a year earlier, well above the pace of inflation—2 percent—in the same period.

There were 337,000 fewer individuals "marginally attached" to the labor force in December than the year prior—people wanting and availing for work who had looked sometime in the last 12 months, but who were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched in the four weeks before the report. Within the marginally attached group, there were 274,000 "discouraged workers," down from 451,000 the year before. Discouraged workers are those not currently looking for a job specifically because they are certain no jobs are available for them.

On Wall Street, stock and bond prices fell as the report raised inflation concerns and dashed hopes that the Fed might cut interest rates soon.


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