Overall, the U.S. economy added 155,000 jobs in December, 2012, bringing the annual total jobs added for the 2012 year to 1.84 million, or about 153,000 per month. The additional jobs did not change the unemployment rate, which remains at 7.8 percent nationally.
Job gains in December, 2012 were, somewhat surprisingly, not limited to the service and retail sectors- two areas that normally comprise a large number of the jobs added during the holiday season. Instead, construction and manufacturing led the way, adding 30,000 and 25,000 new jobs respectively.
Other economic indicators also look promising. The December jobs report shows hourly wages at an average of $23.73 per hour. This is about 2.1 percent higher than the $23.24 average hourly wage from one year ago and better than the rate of inflation for the same time period. Housing prices are increasing and corporate orders for manufactured goods are increasing.
The laggard in the economic numbers is the unemployment rate itself, still holding steady at a level unacceptable for an economy in a period of recovery. Employers are hiring more, but the number of people seeking jobs is also increasing, leading to a stagnant unemployment rate. The official government statistics used to compute the unemployment rate only count those individuals actively seeking work- they exclude discouraged workers and others who have given up looking. More workers actively seeking employment means that a much larger number of jobs have to be created to have a significant impact on the unemployment rate.
Still, with fewer layoffs and more plans for hiring, the economy appears to be strengthening ever- so- slightly each month. A strong monthly gain of 300,000 or more jobs would make a significant difference but for now, we will have to settle for sluggish, stubborn job growth as the U.S. economy continues its steady yet anemic recovery pace.
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