Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in December

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The American economy added 292,000 new jobs last month, 90,000 of which were needed to keep up with population growth. This means that net job growth clocked in at a brisk 202,000 jobs—nearly all of it in the private sector. The headline unemployment rate stayed steady at 5.0 percent. This is a pretty strong showing, and it was all good news. Nearly 300,000 people re-entered the labor force and the participation rate ticked up a bit. This strong jobs report was due entirely to people finding jobs, not to people dropping out of the labor force.

Disappointingly, this didn’t produce much wage growth. Hourly earnings of production and nonsupervisory employees went up at an annual rate of about 1 percent. For the year, earnings were up 2.4 percent—OK but not great. Job growth at the level of the last few months isn’t spectacular, but it’s pretty strong, and it should start translating into wage gains soon if it keeps up.

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