U.S. caps off 2015 by adding 292,000 new jobs in December
The economy produced 292,000 jobs in December, capping off the fifth consecutive year in which employment grew by at least 2 million. Meanwhile, the Labor Department said November and October had even stronger job gains than initially reported, revising the number of new jobs in November from 211,000 to 252,000 and raising October’s gains to 307,000 from 298,000. The U.S. unemployment rate was unchanged at 5 percent, however, nearly half a million (466,000) people joined the labor force in December.
Job growth in December was widespread across many industries, with professional and business services showing the largest gain with 73,000 new jobs. Temporary help services accounted for nearly half of the gain, adding 34,000 new jobs in December. Healthcare increased by 39,000, while the unseasonably warm weather also boosted construction employment by 45,000.
Randstad's U.S. Employee Confidence Index (ECI)
Randstad’s Q4 U.S. Employee Confidence Index (ECI) shows workers continue to report strong confidence levels this quarter. Despite dipping slightly from 61.8 in Q3 2015 to 61.6, the levels remain near record highs. More than one-third of workers (34 percent) believe more jobs are available and nearly six in 10 (55 percent) indicate they are confident in their abilities to find a new job.
U.S. Job Gains
Hiring in December was led again by professional and business services, adding 73,000 jobs last month. Restaurants and retail also boosted staffs to handle the busy holiday season. Manufacturing continues to struggle with falling exports and employment was little changed (+30,000) in 2015, following strong growth in 2014 (+215,000).
Tech firms, banks, hospitals, insurers, auto dealers, restaurants, temporary staffing firms and other service providers have generated most of the new jobs created during the recovery that has taken place since 2009. These companies now easily surpass the once-dominant manufacturing sector.
U.S. Unemployment Rate
The U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 5 percent in December for the third month in a row, while the number of jobless people was essentially unchanged at 7.9 million. However, the household survey reported nearly half a million Americans (466,000) entered the labor force in December. As a result, the labor force participation rate increased 0.1 percentage points.
U.S. Unemployment Rate by Industry
As the economy’s service sector continues to drive economic growth and job gains, the demand for highly skilled knowledge workers is increasing. The result is significant dips in the unemployment rates for many sectors, such as the information industry, which saw its unemployment rate cut nearly in half year-over-year from 5.7 to 2.9. Financial activities also enjoyed a 2.6 unemployment rate in December, a 0.8 drop year-over-year.
Temporary Help Services Sector
The temporary help services sector rebounded strongly in December following a decline in November. Last month, temporary help services added 34,400 jobs, bringing the total to 2,957,800. This was a 1.2 percent sequential growth and up 3.3 percent year-over-year. The sector’s market share also jumped to 2.06 percent in December and was up 9.9 percent in 2015 overall. In fact, growth for temporary help services in 2015 was the best it’s seen since 2011.
Average Weekly Earnings
Coming in at $25.24, the average hourly earnings for private-sector workers declined by one cent, marking the first decline in a year. Year-over-year wages are up 2.5 percent, matching the best 12-month increase of the year. However, wage increase levels are well below those seen before the recession. When it comes to minimum wage workers, many states and cities are taking matters into their own hands and raising minimum pay rates. In fact, 29 states, plus the District of Columbia and nearly two dozen cities and counties, have set their own minimum wages at a level higher than the federal minimum.
With the revisions to November and October job gains, adding 50,000 more jobs than previously reported and a substantial 292,000 added in December, the economy ended 2015 on a very strong note. The steady increase in hiring in 2015 appears to support the Federal Reserve’s decision last month to raise key short-term U.S. interest rates for the first time in nearly a decade. Last year, the U.S. created 2.7 million new jobs, following a 3.1 million increase in 2014. The period marks the best stretch of hiring since the late 1990s.