The U.S. economy added 148,000 jobs in December and the government said the unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent for the third month in a row.
The job growth was less than economists expected. Bloomberg said the median forecast of economists it surveyed was 190,000.
“It’s a little soft across the board but overall, when you’re this close to full employment, I think it’s reasonable to see some slowdown in job gains,” Jeremy Schwartz, a U.S. economist at Credit Suisse in New York, told Bloomberg. “This year we should probably expect to see some slowdowns in job gains — it’s just harder to add jobs when there’s a smaller pool to choose from.”
The U.S. Department of Labor said jobs increased in health care, construction and manufacturing and that 6.6 million people were jobless, essentially unchanged from November.
The department said average hourly earnings for workers on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 9 cents, to $26.63, in December. For the year, earnings rose 2.5 percent.
The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls was unchanged at 34.5 hours in December, the department said. In manufacturing, the workweek edged down by one-tenth of an hour, to 40.8 hours; overtime remained at 3.5 hours.
The department said the number of people who were working part time for economic reasons was essentially unchanged at 4.9 million in December, but was down by 639,000 for the year. Those people were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they were unable to find a full-time job.
In December, 1.6 million people were marginally attached to the labor force, the department said, about unchanged from a year earlier. (The data are not seasonally adjusted.)
Those people were not in the labor force, wanted work and were available to work, and had looked for a job at some time during the previous 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work during the four weeks that preceded the survey.
The government revised the October job gains downward from 244,000 to 211,000, but revised the November numbers upward from 228,000 to 252,000, leaving the combined figure for the two-month period 9,000 lower than previously reported.