U.S. labor market growing, but slowing

U.S. payrolls continue to grow, but at a slowing pace.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 145,000 in December as the unemployment rate held steady at 3.5 percent, according to the latest Labor Department estimates.

The latest monthly payroll gain was the smallest since May and brings total gains for 2019 to 2.1 million. That’s down from 2.7 million in 2018.

The initial estimate for payroll gains in November was revised downward 10,000 to 256,000. The estimate for October was revised downward 4,000 to 152,000.

For December, 5.8 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work. Of those, 1.2 million people had been out of work 27 weeks or longer. Another 4.1 million were counted among those working part-time because their hours had been cut or they’d been unable to find full-time positions.

The labor participation rate held steady at 63.2 percent.

Payroll gains were spread out among a number of industry sectors. Employment increased 41,000 in retail trades, 40,000 in leisure and hospitality and 28,000 in health care. Construction payrolls increased 20,000, while professional and business services added 10,000 jobs.

Employment decreased 12,000 in manufacturing, 10,000 in transportation and warehousing and 8,000 in mining.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls remained unchanged a 34.3 hours. The manufacturing workweek held steady at 40.5 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 3 cents to $28.32. Hourly wages have increased 2.9 percent over the past year.