The labor market ended 2012 a bit better than economists were expecting, but for the year as a whole, job creation saw essentially no acceleration over 2011.
The economy added another 155,000 jobs last month against expectations of 152,000. The unemployment rate remained unchanged at November’s revised rate of 7.8%, ever-so-slightly missing forecasts for a 7.7% rate.
For the full year, employment growth averaged 153,000 per month, the same as the average monthly gain for 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its report.
However, as always, whether folks actually landed jobs was highly dependent on the industry in which they were looking.
Drilling down into the Department of Labor’s December Employment Situation report revealed the expected seasonal and secular trends — employment increased in healthcare, food services and drinking places — as well as encouraging news on the manufacturing front. And construction appeared to have gotten a boost from rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy.
Healthcare employment netted a total of 45,000 jobs in December, led by a gain of 23,000 in ambulatory services, an additional 12,000 jobs in hospitals and another 10,000 in nursing and residential care. For the full year, healthcare employment rose by 338,000, the Labor Department said.
Holiday demand boosted hiring at restaurants and bars, as employment in food services and drinking places rose by 38,000 last month. However, for all of 2012, the industry added an average of 24,000 jobs a month, essentially unchanged from the previous year.
The construction industry added 30,000 jobs in December, led by a a gain of 13,000 positions in the construction of buildings and a net of 12,000 new jobs in residential specialty trade contractors.
Manufacturing employment rose by 25,000 in December, with small gains in a number of component industries, the Labor Department said. However, for all of 2012, factory employment increased by only 180,000, and most of that occurred way back in the January to March quarter.
On the other side of the ledger, the burst in retail hiring ahead of the holidays decelerated as expected last month. Employment in retail trade was little changed little in December after jumping by 143,000 over the prior three months.
Indeed, jobs in clothing and accessories stores fell by 19,000 as the holidays came to end. That follows a net addition of 55,000 jobs in over the previous three months.
Elsewhere in the retail sector, employment in automobile dealers and in food and beverage stores continued to trend up in December, while department stores, sporting goods, hobby and miscellaneous stores all shed jobs.
Other major industries, including mining and logging, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, professional and businesses services, and government, showed little change in job creation last month, the Labor Department said.