By Eric Morath and Amara Omeokwe, Wall Street Journal—
U.S. employers have added jobs for a record 10 years, December data showed, pointing to steady economic growth heading into 2020.
The economy added 145,000 jobs last month and unemployment stayed at a 50-year low of 3.5%, capping a 10th straight year of payroll gains and the longest stretch in 80 years of data, the Labor Department said Friday.
Private-sector wages advanced 2.9% from a year earlier, the smallest annual gain since July 2018. Revisions showed payrolls for November and October were revised down by a net 14,000.
For all of last year, employers added 2.11 million jobs. That was a slowdown from 2018’s robust gain of 2.68 million and ranked 2019 eighth for job growth in the past 10 years. A cooler pace of hiring reflected employers’ difficulty finding enough workers, global economic uncertainty and the fading effects of 2018’s tax cuts.
Friday’s figures were somewhat weaker than expected. Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had forecast a gain of 160,000 new jobs in December, a 3.5% unemployment rate and 3.1% annual wage growth.
In December, employers added jobs in construction and retail. The health-care and professional-services sectors grew, but at a slower pace. Employment fell in manufacturing and transportation and warehousing.
The unemployment rate in recent months has trended near its lowest level since 1969. An alternative measure, which captures those underemployed and marginally attached to the workforce, the U-6, fell to 6.7%, the lowest on records back to 1994.
The share of Americans working or seeking work held steady in December. The so-called labor-force participation rate was 63.2%. The rate had slowly edged higher in recent years, but remains well below levels before the recession, reflecting changing demographics and the fact some Americans have given up seeking work.
Average hourly earning increased 3 cents last month to $28.32. Wages were up 2.9% from a year earlier—still above inflation, but modest relative to other periods with historically low unemployment.