The Bureau of Labor Statistics’ latest report found consistent payroll growth in December, but nothing really robust, as the unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent. They explain, “In 2012, employment growth averaged 153,000 per month, the same as the average monthly gain for 2011” — levels of job growth that can reduce the unemployment rate, but very slowly (and greatly aided by the drop in labor-force participation, partly due to demographics). There was similarly tepid growth, but growth nonetheless, in hourly wages and hours worked.
Particularly strong points remain the health-care and construction industries, adding 45,000 and 30,000 jobs respectively in December. Private-industry job growth throughout the year has remained slightly stronger than the headline number indicates, because in most months, including December, government payrolls were slightly reduced.
December’s numbers could be considered, rather than a disappointing continuation of anemic growth, evidence of the economy’s resilience in the face of uncertainty over the fiscal cliff, which put a significant drag on consumer confidence at the end of 2011 (though that case for optimism about the coming months requires that fiscal issues will not be a source of uncertainty in the future).