U.S. jobless rate ticks up to 4.7% in December, 156,000 new workers as Obama administration winds down

by Wesley Brown ([email protected]) 207 views 

In the final snapshot of the nation’s workforce under the administration of President Barack Obama, the U.S. economy added 156,000 workers in December and ended the year with a jobless rate of 4.7%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday (Jan. 6).

The rate was up from 4.6% in November, and below the 5% in December 2015.

The U.S. unemployment picture has remained mostly unchanged in the second half of 2016, holding at the same since May 2016 when the jobless rate first dipped under 5%. Arkansas unemployment rate has also held steady at 4% over the past three months as the state’s labor pool is brimming with 1,349,512 workers.

In a blog post before he steps down in a few weeks, Labor Department Secretary Thomas Perez on Thursday took note of U.S. economy has added more than 14 million jobs since early 2010 without a monthly decline, calling it the longest streak of job growth in U.S. history.

“In the three months before his inauguration, the economy hemorrhaged roughly 2.3 million jobs. The U.S. auto industry was flat on its back and at risk of going under. A housing crisis was devastating families and communities. Among workers fortunate enough to keep their job, chances are they had not seen a meaningful raise in years,” Perez wrote.

Nationwide, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 156,000 and the number of unemployed persons, at 7.5 million, changed little in December. However, the jobless rate and number of workers on the unemployment line edged down in the fourth quarter after showing little net change earlier in the year.

Employment in health care rose by 43,000 in December, with most of the increase occurring in ambulatory health care services and hospitals at 30,000 and 11,000, respectively. Health care 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 of 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 with 30,000 new additions. This industry added 247,000 jobs in 2016, fewer than the 359,000 jobs gained in 2015.

Job growth also continued to trend up in transportation and warehousing in December, up 15,000 for the month. 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, rising by 13,000 to close the year. This is in line with the average monthly gains for the industry over the past 2 years, BLS officials said.

Although the manufacturing sector has seen a net loss of jobs in 2016, December employment edged up in manufacturing by 17,000, mainly from 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.

More than 15,000 jobs were added to the professional and business services in December, but that is well below an increase of 65,000 in November. The high-wage sector has added 522,000 jobs in 2016, with Arkansas seeing an increase of 5,800 through the first 11 months of 2016.

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

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised down from 142,000 to 135,000, and the change for November was revised up from 178,000 to 204,000. With these revisions, employment gains in October and November were 19,000 higher than previously reported. Over the past 3 months, job gains have averaged 165,000 per month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.3 hours in December. In manufacturing, the workweek edged up by 0.1 hour to 40.7 hours, and overtime edged up by 0.1 hour to 3.3 hours.

In December, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 10 cents to $26.00, after edging down by 2 cents in November. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.9%. In December, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 7 cents to $21.80.