U.S. employers added 216,000 jobs in December, exceeding economists’ expectations and fueling optimism that the economy can achieve a so-called soft landing. The unemployment rate remained flat at 3.7%. Year-over-year wage growth rose slightly to 4.1%.
216,000: U.S. employers added 216,000 jobs in December.
3.7%: The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7%.
4.1%: Wages rose 4.1% over the past year.
December’s jobs report shows a pace of hiring even stronger than expected, wrapping up a year of steady gains in what experts at The Wall Street Journal call “a job market that continues to defy expectations.” The addition of 216,000 jobs suggests a healthy economy, with the most significant growth seen in the healthcare, leisure and hospitality, and government sectors. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent, despite analyst predictions of a slight bump over last month.
Despite overall job growth, losses in transportation and warehousing indicate sector-specific challenges that could be a sign of shifting consumer behavior or technological advancements impacting these industries. Further, the labor force shrank by nearly 700,000 workers in December, which as reported by the New York Times is disappointing after seeing strong labor force growth through much of 2023. This decrease is likely what caused the unemployment rate to remain flat.
Last month’s job gains have diminished previous hopes of an interest rate cut in March, with Bloomberg reporting experts now predict the rate cut is more likely to come in May. Time will tell if additional data will help convince the Fed that inflation is still falling as hoped. According to the New York Times, Federal Reserve officials have also indicated that wage increases above 4 percent are “a little too hot for comfort,” so December’s wage gains are also likely to keep them on watch.
The December 2023 U.S. jobs report indicated that the economy avoided a recession last year, and experts think it’s likely to continue to grow through 2024 as labor market resilience supports consumer spending. However, this growth is likely to delay cuts in interest rates by the Fed, keeping them on the sidelines longer than expected.