US economy misses forecasts, adds just 145,000 jobs in December

source
Reuters/Rebecca Cook
  • The labor market cooled at the end of 2019 but remained on solid footing, creating jobs for a record 111th consecutive month.
  • That brought the total gains for the year to 2.1 million, in line with what would be expected in the decade-long expansion.
  • Wage growth continued to outpace inflation last month but fell short of the peak growth levels seen in early 2019.
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The labor market cooled at the end of 2019 but remained on solid footing, creating jobs for a record 111th consecutive month.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday 145,000 nonfarm payrolls were created in December, compared with economist forecasts for 160,000. That brought the total gains for the year to 2.1 million, in line with what would be expected in the decade-long expansion but below the 2.7 million reported in 2018.

Payroll gains were widely expected to slow from a blockbuster 266,000 print in November, when the end of a six-week strike at General Motors brought back an estimated 50,000 workers.

But the job market grew more than enough to accommodate population growth, keeping the unemployment rate at a half-century low of 3.5%.

Wage growth continued to outpace inflation last month but fell short of the peak growth levels seen in early 2019.

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Friday’s report was likely to bolster expectations for a new lineup of policy-setting voters at the Federal Reserve to hold interest rates steady for now. The central bank has signaled it saw little to no immediate need for additional stimulus following three cuts in 2019, though central bankers will continue to closely monitor tensions between the US and Iran.

A temporary government hiring spree is expected to boost payrolls ahead of the 2020 Census count that kicks off in April.

This story is developing. Please check back for updates.