U.S. labor update: Payrolls grow, jobless rate steady

Employment continued to grow in the United States in December, although at a slower pace to end the year.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls increased 148,000. The unemployment rate remained unchanged for a third straight month at 4.1 percent, the lowest proportion since 2000.

The initial estimate for payroll gains for November was revised upward 24,000 to 252,000. But the initial estimate for October was revised downward 33,000 to 211,000.

Using the latest numbers, payrolls have increased an average of 204,000 over the last three months. For all of 2017, payrolls increased 2.1 million. That’s less than the 2.2 million gain in 2016.

Meanwhile, 6.6 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for jobs in December. Of those, 1.5 million have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer. Another 4.9 million people were counted among those working part time because their hours have been reduced or they’re unable to find full-time positions.

The labor force participation rate held steady at 62.7 percent.

Payroll gains for December were spread out among several industry sectors. Employment increased 31,000 in health care, 30,000 in construction and 25,000 in manufacturing. Food service and drinking places added 25,000 jobs. Professional and business services added 19,000 positions. Employment decreased 20,000 in retail trades.

The average workweek for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls remained unchanged at 34.5 hours. The average manufacturing workweek slipped a tenth of an hour to 40.8 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private, nonfarm payrolls rose 9 cents to $26.63. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 65 cents, or 2.5 percent.