December Employment Rate Remains Steady, Healthcare Jobs Rise

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 156,000 in December, and the unemployment rate remained at roughly 4.7%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

The unemployment rate, at 4.7%, and the number of unemployed persons, at 7.5 million, changed little in December. However, both measures edged down in Q4/16, after showing little net change earlier in the year.

“The U.S. economy again demonstrated its strength in December. The economy added 156,000 jobs, and the unemployment rate ticked up slightly to 4.7%, as more workers were drawn into the labor force,” said U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez. “Looking back on where we were eight years ago, I am proud of the unprecedented progress we have made together. Around this time in 2009, we saw 591,000 initial unemployment claims; last week, there were 235,000.”

The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 1.8 million in December and accounted for 24.2% of the unemployed. In 2016, the number of long-term unemployed declined by 263,000.

The labor force participation rate, at 62.7%, changed little in December and was unchanged over the year. In December, the employment-population ratio was 59.7% for the third consecutive month. This measure showed little change, on net, in 2016.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 156,000 in December, with an increase in health care and social assistance. Job growth totaled 2.2 million in 2016, less than the increase of 2.7 million in 2015.

Employment in healthcare rose by 43,000 in December, with most of the increase occurring in ambulatory health care services (30,000) and hospitals (11,000). Healthcare added an average of 35,000 jobs per month in 2016, roughly in line with the average monthly gain of 39,000 in 2015.

Social assistance added 20,000 jobs in December, reflecting job growth in individual and family services (21,000). In 2016, social assistance added 92,000 jobs, down from an increase of 162,000 in 2015.

Employment in food services and drinking places continued to trend up in December (30,000). This industry added 247,000 jobs in 2016, fewer than the 359,000 jobs gained in 2015.

Employment continued to trend up in transportation and warehousing in December as well (15,000). Within the industry, employment expanded by 12,000 in couriers and messengers. In 2016, transportation and warehousing added 62,000 jobs, down from a gain of 110,000 jobs in 2015.

Employment in financial activities continued on an upward trend in December (13,000). This is in line with the average monthly gains for the industry over the past two years.

In December, employment edged up in manufacturing (17,000), with a gain of 15,000 in the durable goods component. However, since reaching a recent peak in January, manufacturing employment has declined by 63,000.

Employment in professional and business services was little changed in December (+15,000), following an increase of 65,000 in November. The industry added 522,000 jobs in 2016.

Employment in other major industries, including mining, construction, wholesale trade, retail trade, information and government, changed little in December.

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Terry Mulreany
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