Economy Adds 292,000 Jobs in December for a 1990s-Like Total of 2.65 Million Over the Year
FlaglerLive | January 8, 2016
The stock market in China is crashing and the country’s currency is losing its value. Some of the world’s largest economies–Brazil, Russia–are in recession. The World Bank cut its economic forecast for global growth in 2016, and George Soros, the financier, says the markets remind him of the crash of 2008. Yet the American economy, despite warning signs such as slowing growth and a plummeting manufacturing index, is still adding jobs like it was the late 1990s.
The economy ended the year with 292,000 net new jobs, on top of 559,000 new jobs in October and November. That brings the total number of jobs created in 2015 to 2.65 million–more than twice as many jobs as were created during the eight years of George W. Bush’s presidency. In 2014, the economy added 3.1 million jobs. The seven years of Obama’s presidency have netted 8.3 million jobs (after accounting for the millions of jobs lost in the housing crash).
The unemployment rate for December remained at 5 percent for the third straight month as droves of people poured back into the workforce. There were 7.9 million unemployed people in December, 800,000 fewer than at the beginning of 2015.
The alternative measure of unemployment, which also account for under-employment and is a more accurate reflection of the true labor picture in the United States, shows a rate of 9.9 percent of unemployed and underemployed Americans, a significant decline from the 11.2 percent rate a year ago. That rate includes not only the unemployed, but the 6 million people who were employed part-time for economic reasons–because they could not find full-time work or because their hours had been cut back against their will. The number of involuntary part-time workers has declined by nearly 800,000 over the year. It also includes discouraged workers who have dropped out of the labor force.
For all that, wages are still stagnant: Average hourly earnings for all employees on private payrolls fell one cent, to $25.24, after an increase of 5 cents in November, for a net increase of just 2.5 percent over the year–not enough to overcome inflation and, for millions, big increases in health care costs.
Other underlying factors are not improving, either: the labor participation rate is staying flat, as it has all year. The nation’s manufacturing index, at 48.2, is below the 50-point threshold, which has augured recessions on several occasions in the past 60 years, though the index had to fall further for that. The economy’s third-quarter growth clocked in at a 2.1 percent, after growing at nearly 4 percent in the previous quarter, though disposable income increased 3.9 percent in the third quarter after a smaller increase of 2.6 percent in the second.
Some highlights from the December jobs report: Employment in professional and business services increased by 73,000, with temporary help services accounting for 34,000 of the gain. Construction added 45,000 jobs, for a total of 263,000 over the year (compared to 338,000 in 2014). Health care employment rose by 39,000, with most of the increase occurring in ambulatory health care services (+23,000) and hospitals (+12,000). Food services and bars added 37,000 jobs in December, transportation and warehousing added 23,000, film and sound recording industries added 15,000 jobs. Employment in mining declined 8,000, for a total loss of 129,000 jobs in 2015. Manufacturing added 30,000 jobs.