Employment in the U.S. increased by slightly more than expected in the month of December, according to a report released by the Labor Department on Friday.
The report said non-farm payroll employment jumped by 223,000 jobs in December after surging by a revised 256,000 jobs in November.
Economists had expected employment to shoot up by 200,000 jobs compared to the addition of 263,000 jobs originally reported for the previous month.
The Labor Department said the stronger than expected job growth reflected notable job gains in the leisure and hospitality, healthcare, construction, and social assistance sectors.
The report also said the unemployment rate edged down to 3.5 percent in December from a revised 3.6 percent in November.
The unemployment rate was expected to come in unchanged compared to the 3.7 percent originally reported for the previous month.
The unexpected dip in the unemployment rate came as the household survey measure of employment surged by 717,000, while the labor force jumped by 439,000.
The Labor Department also said average hourly employee earnings rose by $0.09 or 0.3 percent to $32.82. Annual wage growth slowed to 4.6 percent in December from 4.8 percent in November.
“The solid 223,000 gain in non-farm payrolls and drop-back in unemployment to a 50-year low in December will, at face value, do little to ease the Fed’s concerns about resilient core services inflation,” said Andrew Hunter, Senior U.S. Economist at Capital Economics.
He added, “That said, the softer gain in average hourly earnings suggests wage growth is nevertheless slowing, and we still think the labour market will weaken more markedly this year as the economy slips into recession.”
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