Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
- The Employment Situation
Nonfarm payrolls rose by 103,000 in December, following upwardly revised increases of 71,000 in November and 210,000 in October (on net adding 70,000 to the previous estimates). Payrolls expanded by a little over 1.1 million in 2010 (an average monthly gain of 94,000), but still remain well below pre-recession levels (to the tune of 7.2 million). Over the past three months, payrolls have increased, on average, by 128,000 a month. However, most of those gains have come from temporary help services, health care, and (to a lesser extent) leisure and hospitality sectors. Goods-producing payrolls were virtually flat in December, falling 2,000, and are up just 135,000 over the past 12 months. Construction employment decreased by 16,000 during the month, with a large portion of that stemming from job losses in heavy and civil engineering (down 13,000). Retail trade payrolls rose 12,000 in December, partially offsetting a 19,400 decrease in November, and edging out its average monthly gain of 10,000 in 2010. Temporary help services continued its string of gains, increasing by 16,000 in December, bringing its total gain for 2010 to a little over 300,000. Health care employment rose by 36,000 in December, slightly above its average gain of 22,000 over the past 12 months. Other measures we've been tracking for signs of improvement on the establishment side of the report—average hours and earnings—were little changed in December. The average workweek for all private employees remained at 34.3 hours, though the manufacturing workweek declined by 0.1 hours to 40.2 hours (factory overtime stayed at 3.1 hours). Also, average hourly earnings for all employees ticked up by 0.1 percent (3 cents) to $22.78. On the household side, the number of unemployed persons fell by 556,000, its largest monthly decrease since July 1983. However, that decrease came as the number of employed rose by 297,000 and 260,000 people exited the labor force. The labor force participation rate slipped down 0.2 percentage point to 64.3 percent, down 1.7 percentage points since the beginning of the recession to its lowest level since the mid '80s. While the surprise drop in the unemployment rate will likely garner most of the attention, the employment-to-population ratio—a somewhat less noisy barometer of the labor market—edged up 0.1 percentage point to 58.3 percent in December. Compared to its level in December 2009, the employment-to-population ratio has only improved by 0.1 percentage point.