December marked the 87th consecutive month of job growth, adding an additional 148,000 positions during the month – bringing the total number of jobs filled in 2017 to 2.06 million. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.1 percent for the third consecutive month but fell over the year by 0.74 percent, a 17-year low.
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was essentially unchanged at 4.9 million in December but was down by 639,000 over the year. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job. The number of long-term unemployed remained essentially the same at 1.5 million in December but declined by 354,000 over the year.
Among the marginally attached, there were 47,000 discouraged workers in December, little changed from a year earlier. Discouraged workers are those not seeking employment opportunities because they believe there are no jobs available. The remaining 1.1 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in December had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.
Payroll employment growth totaled 2.1 million in 2017, compared with a gain of 2.2 million in 2016. Job gains occurred in healthcare (31,000), construction (+30,000) and manufacturing (25,000), collectively creating over half a million jobs in 2017. Employment changed little for most other major industries, including food services, professional and business services, retail trade, mining, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, and financial activities.
The labor force participation rate, at 62.7 percent, was unchanged over the month and year. And while the employment-population ratio was also unchanged at 60.1 percent in December, it was up by 0.3 percentage point over the entire year.
Wages rose in December by 9 cents, increasing over the year by 65 cents, or 2.5 percent.
This all alludes to an economy that is healthy and likely to continue growing but we won’t know for sure for a while.