Jobs Report: Strong U.S. Wage Gains in December


January 6, 2017

The latest jobs numbers are out from the federal government. What do they mean for job seekers and employers? Here’s a quick take from Glassdoor’s Chief Economist Dr. Andrew Chamberlain:

This morning’s jobs report showed a strong and growing labor market, with 156,000 new jobs added to payrolls and an unemployment rate essentially unchanged at 4.7 percent – a rate most economists consider close to “full employment.”

Today’s report marks 75 consecutive months of positive job gains – the longest streak on record. As of December, the current economic expansion is now 90 months long, just two months short of the famous 1980s Reagan years expansion.

There were two big surprises in today’s jobs report. First was wage growth: Average hourly pay grew by a blistering 2.9 percent rate from one year ago, the fastest pace in seven years. Glassdoor data from our Local Pay Reports show median U.S. pay grew by 2.7 percent from a year ago in December—down slightly from November.

Today’s rapid wage growth will almost certainly encourage more aggressive Fed interest rate moves in 2017, as it could be early evidence for accelerating inflation pressure in company payrolls.

The second surprise was a December turnaround in manufacturing hiring. The economy added 17,000 new manufacturing jobs in December, following several consecutive months of job losses. While it’s unlikely that this signals a broad-based turnaround for America’s weak manufacturing labor market, it’s a strong showing for a single month.

The biggest job gains in December were in healthcare (+63,300 jobs), leisure and hospitality (+24,000 jobs), manufacturing (+17,000 jobs) and transportation and warehousing (+14,700 jobs). The biggest job losses were in information (which includes most media) (-6,000 jobs), construction (-3,000 jobs) and mining (-2,000 jobs).

As expected, the surge in consumer confidence and optimism in financial markets that we’ve seen since the presidential election encouraged some new workers to join the labor market, as the labor force participation rate edged up slightly by 0.1 percent in December to 62.7 percent. While that’s unlikely to continue, it’s another sign of the general health and strength of today’s job market.

Today’s positive report is the final job market update of the Obama administration. During his tenure, the U.S. labor market added roughly 11.6 million jobs. Beginning next month, experts will be watching the labor market closely for signs of the real-world impact of policy moves on immigration, taxes and trade from the incoming Trump administration.

To speak with Dr. Andrew Chamberlain about today’s jobs report or to discuss labor market trends, contact pr at Glassdoor dot com. For the latest economics and labor market updates, follow @adchamberlain on Twitter and subscribe to Glassdoor Economic Research.