Job creation holds steady in December

Andrew Wilkinson, Chief Economic Strategist for Miller Tabak & Co. LLC. says there was “precious little surprise in the employment reading relative to consensus forecast despite the far bigger climb in the ADP report on Thursday,” in analyzing today’s jobs report.

Job creation was steady in December, as the unemployment rate came in at 7.8% for the second straight month, according to numbers released Thursday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The results were consistent with the consensus forecast, and showed the most significant gains in the healthcare, food services and goods-producing sectors.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 155,000, although the household survey showed the total number of employed persons increased by 43,000, while the number of unemployed rose by 177,000.

The goods-producing sector added 59,000 jobs, with construction increases split roughly equally between buildings and residential specialty trade contractors, according to Wilkinson, who adds that the professional and business services and leisure sectors also saw strong gains.

One bright spot highlighted by Wilkinson was the average reading of weekly hours worked by all private employees, which rose to 34.5 from 34.4. The increase matched the September and June peaks “providing optimism that employers may add to hiring in the New Year,” Wilkinson notes.

“Overall a decent report especially in the run-up to the impending fiscal cliff providing employers with reasons not to add employees in the face of looming uncertainty for the economy,” he adds.

Other highlights

Service-producing industries saw slower growth this month — its addition of 168,000 new jobs was 3,000 jobs lower than in November. Government jobs also fell by 13,000.

The number of long-term unemployed people (those unemployed for 27 weeks or more) dropped by 20,000 last month, while the average number of weeks spent seeking work fell from 40.0 to 38.1.

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