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A 'Sour Note' on Jobs, but Still a 10-Year Milestone

Hiring slows in December, though US now has seen 10 straight years of job gains
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 10, 2020 8:00 AM CST
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In this Sept. 18, 2019, file photo, people stand in line to inquire about jobs available at the Bean Automotive Group during a job fair in Miami.   (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky, File)

(Newser) – The last jobs report of 2019 and the decade came in shy of expectations. Employers added 145,000 jobs in December, lower than the expected 160,000 and enough to qualify as a "sour note," reports CNBC. Still, the figure caps the 10th straight year of payroll gains, the longest such streak in eight decades of data collection and one that points to "steady economic growth heading into 2020," per the Wall Street Journal. The unemployment rate held steady at 3.5%. Another stat that came in lower than expected: Wage gains. Average hourly earnings increased 2.9% from the previous year, below the anticipated 3.1%. That's a possible sign there's room for additional job gains.

US employers added 2.1 million jobs through all of 2019, down from 2.68 million last year. That's still a solid figure for 2019, though hiring may slow because the number of unemployed people seeking work has fallen to 5.8 million, the lowest level since 2000, per the AP. With fewer unemployed people hunting for jobs, hiring might slow organically. The steady hiring growth during the expansion has contributed to gains in consumer spending. Retail sales during the crucial holiday shopping period improved 3.4% compared to the prior year, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse. But online shopping accounted for much of that increase as e-commerce sales rose nearly 19%. Retailers have shed roughly 30,000 jobs in the 12-month period that ended in November because of this shift.

(Read more unemployment stories.)

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