US Bureau of Labor Statistics

In December, the overall unemployment rate rose by two tenths of a percent, to 3.9 percent, as reported by the US Department of Labor. It was 4.1 percent a year ago in December 2017.

The civilian labor force participation rate also rose by two tenths of a percent, to 63.1 percent. The participation rate has remained fairly steady since October of 2013, but December marks the first time the participation rate has exceeded 63 percent since March of 2014.

The employment-population ratio again stayed steady at 60.6 percent. The employment-population ratio remains at its highest level since January 2009.

In December, the unemployment rate for individuals with at least a bachelor’s degree decreased by one tenth of a percent to 2.1 percent.

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 312,000 in December. The payroll employment numbers for both October and November 2018 were adjusted, resulting in gains that were 58,000 more than previously reported. Payroll employment gains have averaged 254,000 over the last three months.

Some details directly from the BLS report:


Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 312,000 in December. Job gains occurred in health care, food services and drinking places, construction, manufacturing, and retail trade. Payroll employment rose by 2.6 million in 2018, compared with a gain of 2.2 million in 2017.

Employment in health care rose by 50,000 in December. Within the industry, job gains occurred in ambulatory health care services (+38,000) and hospitals (+7,000). Health care added 346,000 jobs in 2018, more than the gain of 284,000 jobs in 2017.

In December, employment in food services and drinking places increased by 41,000. Over the year, the industry added 235,000 jobs, similar to the increase in 2017 (+261,000).

Construction employment rose by 38,000 in December, with job gains in heavy and civil engineering construction (+16,000) and nonresidential specialty trade construction (+16,000). The construction industry added 280,000 jobs in 2018, compared with an increase of 250,000 in 2017.

Manufacturing added 32,000 jobs in December. Most of the gain occurred in the durable goods component (+19,000), with job growth in fabricated metal products (+7,000) and in computer and electronic products (+4,000). Employment in the nondurable goods component also increased over the month (+13,000). Manufacturing employment increased by 284,000 over the year, with about three-fourths of the gain in durable goods industries. Manufacturing had added 207,000 jobs in 2017.

In December, employment in retail trade rose by 24,000. Job growth occurred in general merchandise stores (+15,000) and automobile dealers (+6,000). These gains were partially offset by a job loss in sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores (-9,000). Retail trade employment increased by 92,000 in 2018, after little net change in 2017 (-29,000).

Over the month, employment in professional and business services continued to trend up (+43,000). The industry added 583,000 jobs in 2018, outpacing the 458,000 jobs added in 2017.

Employment in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, and government, showed little change over the month.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 34.5 hours in December. In manufacturing, both the workweek and overtime increased by 0.1 hour to 40.9 hours and 3.6 hours, respectively. The average workweek for production and nonsupervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls held at 33.7 hours.

In December, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose 11 cents to $27.48. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 84 cents, or 3.2 percent. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 9 cents to $23.05 in December.