U.S. labor update: payrolls up, jobless rate down

A year of ups and downs in the U.S. labor market ended with payrolls up and the monthly unemployment rate down.

Nonfarm payrolls increased 223,000 in December as the jobless rate edged down a tenth of a point to 3.5 percent, according to the latest estimates from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The payroll gain fell short of the monthly average for 2022. But the jobless rate matched a 53-year low.

The payroll gain for November was revised down 7,000 to 256,000, while the gain for October was revised down 21,000 to 263,000.

For all of 2022, payroll employment rose 4.5 million, less than the 6.7 million increase in 2021. Payrolls increased an average of 375,000 a month in 2022.

For December, 5.7 million people were counted among those unsuccessfully looking for work. Of those, 1.1 million have been out of work 27 weeks or longer. Another 3.9 million people were counted among those working part-time because their hours were cut or they were unable to find full-time positions.

The labor participation rate edged up two-tenths of a point to 62.3 percent, but remained below the rate before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S. in early 2020.

Payroll gains for December were spread out among industry sectors. Employment increased 67,000 in leisure and hospitality, 55,000 in health care, 28,000 in construction and 20,000 in social assistance. Gains were smaller at 9,000 for retail trades, 8,000 for manufacturing and 5,000 in transportation and warehousing. Government payrolls rose 3,000.

The average workweek shortened a tenth of an hour to 34.3 hours, The average manufacturing work week was little changed at 40.1 hours.

Average hourly earnings rose 9 cents to $32.82. Over the past year, hourly earnings increased 4.6 percent.