Chart of the Day: Net New Jobs in December

The American economy gained 148,000 jobs last month. We need 90,000 new jobs just to keep up with population growth, which means that net job growth clocked in at 58,000 jobs. That’s pretty weak. The employment-population ratio stayed flat yet again, and the headline unemployment rate stayed steady at 4.1 percent.

I added a trend line this month because the general trajectory of the jobs report is pretty clear these days: after peaking at the start of 2015, job growth has been on a slow but steady downward trend. At the current rate, net job growth will be close to zero by the end of the year. Alternatively, of course, it’s possible that the trendline will change. Maybe the tax cut will produce a temporary sugar high. Or maybe a recession will start and job growth will crater.

On the bright side, wages of production and nonsupervisory workers were up 3.9 percent. That’s a net gain of about 1.7 percent after accounting for inflation. It would be good news indeed if we could keep this up for a while.