The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) issued its December 2018 jobs report Friday. It indicated an astronomically high job growth rate, with 312,000 new payrolls added. The number of new jobs is nearly double the prediction of 176,000.
The jobs created, which exclude farming jobs, were mainly in “health care, food services and drinking places, construction, manufacturing, and retail trade.” American workers also took home a little more dough in December. BLS data on hourly pay rates showed an 11 cents hike from November to December, and an 84 cents rise since the beginning of 2018. Currently, the average hourly wage in the U.S. is $27.48.
“The far bigger than expected 312,000 jump in non-farm payrolls in December would seem to make a mockery of market fears of an impending recession,” wrote Capital Economics’ chief U.S. economist Paul Ashworth, according to CNBC.
Health care companies added 50,000 new positions in December, primarily in ambulatory care. Throughout 2018, more than 346,000 new health care jobs were created. In 2017, that number was only 284,000, according to the BLS. Manufacturing jobs also demonstrated a respectable increase of 32,000, many of which were from “durable goods component” firms. Electronic manufacturers also contributed, adding about 4,000 positions.
Despite the positive data, not all news was good. The unemployment rate rose in December by .2 percent, placing the rate at 3.9 percent. Among the unemployed are the so-called “job leavers” which the BLS defines as ” unemployed persons who quit or otherwise voluntarily left their previous job and immediately began looking for new employment.” This group grew by 142,000. The number of individuals classified as “involuntary part-time workers” remained about the same, but this number as a whole is down since the start of 2018.
In these early days of 2019, it’s too early to tell what will happen to the economy. Some experts see this report as the beginning of the end, while others are optimistic the economy will continue to thrive. A third group, somewhere in the middle, sees the BLS data as an indication of relative stability, at least for the short term.
“This report should calm investor fears. The economy is not falling off a cliff, it’s just slowing down,” said Moody’s Analytics’ Chief Economist Mark Zandi, while speaking to Politico. “But this number is backward-looking, and the stock market is forward-looking. I think it’s the high-water mark for job growth for sure, and job growth will slow as we move through 2019.”