USA employers added 312,000 jobs in December, blowing past Wall Street's expectations for an increase of 177,000 jobs, even on the heels of a tumultuous month for the markets that saw the Dow Jones Industrial Average and S&P 500 post their worst performance since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent, but that's because more people came off the sidelines to look for jobs, the Labor Department said Friday. Employers increased hours for workers, pushing the average workweek up to 34.5 hours from 34.4 hours in November. Average hourly earnings rose 3.2% from a year earlier, more than projected and matching the fastest pace since 2009. But the December jobs news helped prompt a rebound on Wall Street, with all three major indices rallying after Thursday's rout.
The unemployment rate ticked up by two-tenths of a point to 3.9%, but that was due mostly to more workers joining the job hunt, according to the closely-watched report.
Health care and education added 82,000 jobs last month, the largest jump in almost nine years.
Slow income growth has been the most persistent problem afflicting the United States economy in its recovery from the Great Recession.Wages have barely kept up with the cost of living, even as the unemployment rate dropped and the economy expanded. "This employment report suggests the US economy still has considerable forward momentum".
Depending on how long it lasts, the shutdown "could be a big negative" in next month's jobsreport, which will reflect January employment, Kevin Hassett, a top economic adviser to President Trump, said Thursday.More news: World Bank president Jim Yong Kim announces surprise early resignation
The strong job growth was broad-based with the goods sector adding 74,000 jobs, bringing its 2018 total to 624,000 up from 509,000 in 2017 and 82,000 in 2016.
Speaking at an American Economic Association event with former Fed chiefs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke on Friday, Powell sought to placate jittery financial markets.
The U.S. central bank raised rates four times in 2018.
The Labor Department has not been affected by the partial shutdown of the US government and will continue to publish economic data complied by its statistics agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The unemployment rate, which has remained at historic lows, inched up slightly last month - the greatest increases were seen among male workers.More news: Brian Flores Set for Multiple Head Coach Interviews
Wages grew 3.2 percent in the year since December 2017 after almost a decade of tepid growth, the Labor Department's latest numbers showed. Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector increased by 55,000 jobs.
The monthly average increase in production-line work in 2018 was +24,000, which was more than one-third (+37.2%) higher than 2017's comparable figure of +17,000. Manufacturing payrolls rose by 32,000 jobs in December. Furthermore, this growth was consistently strong throughout the year; the economy has added over 100,000 jobs every month in 2018, just the second time since 2000 that this has occurred for a full calendar year.
Government jobs saw a gain of 11,000.
For "hard hat" workers excluding supervisory personnel, the latest year-over-year compensation boosts were even more robust, +4.2% hourly and +4.5% weekly. Among health care sub-sectors, "home health care services" stood out with +13,000 jobs month-to-month.More news: ‘Simmba’ continues stronghold over box office, is a certified blockbuster