What Economists Are Saying Ahead of December's U.S. Jobs Report

What Economists Are Saying Ahead of December's U.S. Jobs Report

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate jumped to 3.9 percent - the highest rate since August - as more people felt confident enough to quit their jobs and look for new ones.

USA employers dramatically stepped up their hiring in December, adding 312,000 jobs in an encouraging display of strength for an economy in the midst of a trade war, slowing global growth and a partial shutdown of the federal government. "Those two things can not coexist for very long". The unemployment rate held at 3.7% in November, matching a almost half-century low, and economists expect it declined further to 3.6% in December.

"The drop in stock prices likely will depress the numbers somewhat over the next couple of months, but for now all the indicators of labour demand we follow are very robust", said Ian Sheperdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.

But in recent weeks, financial markets have been increasingly anxious about the path of economic growth this year. The Dow Jones industrial average shot up 747 points, or 3.3 percent. The White House's protectionism has lead to a trade war with China and tit-for-tat tariffs with other trading partners, including the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

Data this week showed factory activity weakened across much of Europe and Asia in December, with Chinese manufacturing contracting for the first time in 19 months. And attacks by Trump on the Federal Reserve over its rate increases have raised doubts about Chairman Jerome Powell's status - a concern for both the markets and the economy.

Data releases from Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis have been suspended during the shutdown, which started on December 22 amid demands by Trump for $5 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S. -Mexico border.

US financial markets are projecting no rate hikes in 2019.

It is expected to slow to around 150,000 per month this year as workers become more scarce.

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Among the sectors and industries doing the most hiring last month were health care, food service, construction, manufacturing, and retail. The ADP report, which is jointly developed with Moody's Analytics, was published ahead of the government's more comprehensive employment report for December scheduled for release on Friday. Restaurants and drinking places posted a net gain of 40,700 jobs. Manufacturing payrolls are forecast to have increased by 20,000 jobs in December, but could surprise on the downside after a measure of factory employment fell last month.

And businesses are still searching for more workers. Employers obviously don't think so, or they wouldn't be expanding their payrolls.

Tara Riley, president of Fresh Coat, said that franchise owners are having to actively search for workers instead of simply posting ads.

The number of Americans filing applications for new unemployment benefits rose by more than expected last week, but remained at a low level indicative of a tight labor market.

But hiring has easily eclipsed that pace. In 2018, employers added 2.6 million jobs, or an average of almost 217,000 a month, according to the Labor Department. The strong wage gain makes a policy change unlikely. The percentage of the working-age people in the work force matched a five-year high.

December's rate of hiring far exceeded the roughly 200,000 jobs the U.S. economy has added on average each month over 2018.

Despite signs of slowing economic growth, the labor market appears strong.

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