US employers added 148,000 jobs in December, a modest gain but enough to suggest the economy entered the new year with solid momentum, per the AP. The Labor Department says the unemployment rate remained at 4.1% for a third straight month, the lowest since 2000. Employers added nearly 2.1 million jobs last year, enough to lower the unemployment rate from 4.7% a year ago. Still, average job gains have slowed to 171,000 this year from a peak of 250,000 in 2014. That typically happens when the unemployment rate falls to ultra-low levels and fewer people are available to be hired.
While modest, the job gains underscore the economy's continued health in its ninth year of recovery. The unemployment rate for African-Americans dropped to a record low of 6.8%. The Wall Street Journal sees the December report as "uninspiring," given that the figure of 148,000 came in below estimates. But in the bigger picture, the newspaper notes that 2.1 million jobs were added in 2017, the seventh straight year of job gains of 2 million or more. This is only the second time that long of a stretch has been recorded, the previous time coming in the 1990s.