The first Friday of every month, the payroll report dominates the news and Friday was no exception. This time around, the Labor Department announced that the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 7.8% and that 155,000 payroll jobs were created in December. The private sector accounted for 168,000 created jobs while the government accounted for a loss of 13,000 jobs. Meanwhile, the average workweek remained at 34.5 hours and hourly earnings ticked up by 0.3%. These results largely matched economists’ estimates, so I have no complaints here.
The ADP Payroll Report
The unemployment rate report followed a separate ADP (NYSE:ADP) payroll report, which released on Thursday. According to the ADP, the U.S. economy churned out 215,000 new private jobs in December—187,000 in service and 28,000 in manufacturing. The ADP also revised the November payrolls up by 30,000 to 148,000.
In December, large businesses accounted for a larger chunk of the jobs growth: 87,000. This has been a reversal from previous months, where small and mid-sized businesses accounted for most of the growth. With this latest report, private employers have added 1.7 million jobs in the past 12 months.
And then there’s the weekly jobless claims number, which was also announced on Thursday. Last week, jobless claims ticked up 10,000 to 372,000—coming in above the 365,000 consensus estimate. Meanwhile, the four-week moving average remained unchanged at 360,000. I’m not concerned with the slight rise in claims; we still remain well below the 400,000 benchmark (which signals a contracting employment). This time last year, the four-week moving average stood at 377,000, so we’re 4.5% lower than we were last year.
So these three reports suggest that despite the fiscal cliff drama, the U.S. jobs picture continues to improve.