Employers Continue Hiring as 2012 Ends

By Toni Vranjes

January 4, 2013

The U.S. economy continued to add jobs at a steady pace during the holiday season, according to the government’s latest report.

The nation added 155,000 jobs in December, meeting economists’ expectations for the month. The unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, the same level as the previous month. (The government revised the November jobless rate from 7.7 percent to 7.8 percent).

One area of strong growth was health care, which added 45,000 jobs. Employment gains also occurred in food services and drinking places, as well as construction and manufacturing.

The retail sector shed 11,000 jobs. However, retail employment had increased sharply in November, suggesting that holiday hiring occurred early, IHS Global Insight economist Nigel Gault wrote in a commentary.

Overall, the news points to a gradually improving job market, according to Gault. The increase of 155,000 jobs was about in line with the 153,000 average for 2012 overall.

Early in 2013, the labor market could be hurt by the debt-ceiling crisis and the expiration of the payroll tax cut, he adds.

“But we do think that the economy’s fundamentals are gradually improving, and look for faster growth later in the year to produce an average monthly jobs gain of 170,000 for 2013,” he wrote.

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