US adds 156,000 jobs
By CHRISTOPHER S. RUGABER
AP Economics Writer
WASHINGTON — U.S. employers added 156,000 jobs in December, capping a year of slower but solid hiring and providing the last major snapshot of the economy President-elect Donald Trump will inherit from President Barack Obama.
Friday’s report from the Labor Department portrayed a job market that remains durable 7½ years after the recovery from the Great Recession began. Though the unemployment rate rose to 4.7 percent from a nine-year low of 4.6 percent, it did so for an encouraging reason: More people began looking for work. Because not all of them found jobs immediately, more people were counted as unemployed in December.
Hourly pay jumped 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the sharpest increase in more than seven years. That is a positive sign that the low unemployment rate is forcing some businesses to offer higher wages to attract and keep workers. Sluggish growth in Americans’ paychecks has been a longstanding weak spot in the economic recovery.
For all of 2016, job growth averaged 180,000 a month, down from 229,000 in 2015, but enough to lower unemployment over time.
“While job growth has slowed somewhat, this is likely more due to a shortage of qualified workers rather than a lack of confidence among business leaders,” said Sal Guatieri, a senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
Health care leads way
Hiring last month was led by the health care sector, which added 43,000 jobs, mostly in doctors’ offices and hospitals. Manufacturing resumed hiring after four months of job cuts, adding 17,000.
Restaurants and bars gained 30,000 positions. Transportation and warehousing, fueled by the growth of online shopping during the holiday season, added 15,000. On the other hand, construction and mining companies shed jobs.
A broader gauge of unemployment, which includes part-time workers who would prefer full-time work as well as people who have stopped looking for jobs, dipped to 9.2 percent from 9.3 percent. That’s the lowest level since April 2008.
“More people are back at work than at any point since the recession,” noted Jed Kolko, chief economist at the job site Indeed. “However, Trump will inherit an economy that’s riding high but faces long-term challenges. Fewer adults are at work than before the recession, manufacturing is lagging despite an uptick in December and the acceleration in wage growth, while great for workers, could raise inflation fears.”
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