The American economy gained 312,000 jobs last month. We need 90,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth, which means that net job growth clocked in at a healthy 222,000 jobs. The unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent.
December’s numbers are a little hard to make sense of. The labor force increased by 412,000, and about half of this was due to people coming in off the sidelines and starting to look for jobs. However, they’re counted as unemployed until they find work, so the number of unemployed increased in December, while the number of employed went up by only 142,000.
Earnings of production and nonsupervisory workers increased at a startling annualized rate of 4.9 percent in the month of December. For the full year, the increase was 3.3 percent. With inflation running at about 2.2 percent both recently and for the full year, this means blue collar workers saw a full-year increase of about 1.1 percent and a December increase of about 2.7 percent at an annualized rate. Not bad.