The American economy gained 145,000 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 55,000 jobs. That’s not so great. The headline unemployment rate remained steady at 3.5 percent.
Hourly earnings of blue-collar workers increased about 1 percent, but inflation has been running at 2 percent lately, which means that real earnings declined about 1 percent. This is only a single month of data, but even so it’s kind of astonishing: the unemployment rate is at a record low, but blue-collar wages during the holiday season declined. That hardly seems possible. And yet it happened.