WASHINGTON (1/11/16)--The economy added 292,000 jobs in December, capping off a strong year for the job market and perhaps signaling a second interest rate increase by the Federal Reserve in the coming months (Economy.com Jan. 8).
Over the final six months of 2015, the job market added an average of 220,000 jobs per month. The latest report from the Census Bureau also put the unemployment rate just above 5%.
For the year, employment rose by 2.935 million, a jump from 2.629 million in 2014 and the strongest year of growth since 1999.
“The Fed’s decision to begin normalizing interest rates in December, even with inflation low, was rooted in policymakers’ confidence that the declining labor market slack would push inflation higher,” said Ryan Sweet, Moody’s analyst (Economy.com). “However, future rate hikes will now be more dependent on actual rather than expected movement in inflation toward the (Fed’s 2%) target.”
Disappointingly, wage growth continued to flat line in December, and the average work week for employees was unchanged a 34.5 hours.
Construction, professional/business services, and education/health services reported the strongest periods of growth during the month. Manufacturing also posted steady gains, but international economic woes might tamp down future growth in that sector, according to Moody’s.
“We expect monthly job gains to average 218,000 in the first half of the year, more than double the pace needed to keep up with growth in the working-age population,” Sweet said. “Therefore, there is some breathing room from job growth to moderate without cause for concern.”