December Jobs Reports: US Ends 2018 with Bang; Canada with Whimper

A street sign Wall Street is seen outside New York Stock Exchange

USA employers added the most workers in 10 months as wage gains accelerated and labor-force participation jumped, reflecting a robust job market that nevertheless faces mounting risks in 2019. The labor force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, rose to 63.1 percent last month from 62.9 percent in November. This matches October, which posted the largest 12-month growth in nominal average hourly earnings since April 2009.

Among the unemployed, the number of job leavers - unemployed people who immediately look for new work upon departure - increased by 142,000 in December to 839,000. Monthly job growth around 120,000 is sufficient to keep the unemployment rate under 4%.

Correction: A previous version of this article gave an incorrect figure for the percentage of total job growth in December.

"Friday's payrolls numbers suggest a healthier United States economy than some investors had anticipated", it said.

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There were job gains across many industries in December, including significant gains in education and health services (82,000), leisure and hospitality (55,000), and in manufacturing (32,000).

The BLS said the healthcare sector added 50,000 jobs in December and 346,000 jobs for the year, compared to just 284,000 new jobs in 2017. "Overall, the markets may have decided the Fed's work is done, but the economic data say otherwise", he said.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 312,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since February, as employment at construction sites snapped back after being restrained by unseasonably cold temperatures in November.

The expectation of continued strength in hiring would contrast with the chaos of the stock market, a raging trade war, a partial shutdown of the government and the perception of growing risks for the economy.

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The average monthly increase in USA construction jobs in 2018 was +23,000, which was +12.0% higher than 2017's average monthly increase of +21,000. In the latest signal that investors see little room for the Fed to lift rates any further, yields on 2-year U.S. Treasury notes on Thursday dropped below the Fed's policy rate for the first time in more than a decade. Since 2010, one in 10 months have seen less than 100,000 new jobs added.

The robust labour market, especially strengthening wage growth, suggests the economy will continue to expand this year despite the ebb in consumer confidence, continued weakness in the housing market and cooling manufacturing activity. The comparable increases across the whole economy, both hourly and weekly, were +3.2%. In addition, data from both November and October were revised upward by a combined 95,000 jobs, bringing up the average job growth for the fourth quarter to 254,000 jobs per month. Job growth averaged 220,000 per month in 2018. Most of the gains occurred in blue-collar durable goods manufacturing, with growth in fabricated metals and computer and electronic products, the Labor Department said in its release.

And businesses are still searching for more workers.

The economy needs to add 80,000 jobs a month just to maintain current staffing levels, said Joseph Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM, an worldwide consulting firm.

Can fresh US-China trade talks bring a breakthrough?
UBS said on Friday that 37 percent of 200 manufacturers surveyed by the bank have shifted out of China over the past 12 months. Chinese growth fell to a post-global crisis low of 6.5 percent in the quarter ending in September.

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