A robust round of job creation in December helped make 2015 the second best year for hiring this century.
Last month, non-farm payrolls swelled by 292,000 positions, far surpassing the tally of 200,000 that economists predicted. The strong performance concluded a 2015 in which the nation added 2.65 million jobs. The end of the year was especially strong for hiring, with employers adding an average of 284,000 new positions per month between October and December. During the first three quarters of 2015, the monthly average was 200,000.
Analysts said that the employment data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics was an encouraging sign of strength and resilience in the jobs market amid the pressures of low oil prices, economic slowdown in China and modest domestic economic growth.
“The job market is not fully healed, but we’re getting much closer to where we’d like to be,” David Berson, a chief economist at Nationwide Insurance, told The Washington Post.
While the numbers on job creation provided a lift, the data on wages gave cause to remain grounded. In December, the average hourly wage dropped a penny to $25.24. Wages were up 2.5%, on average, from a year earlier, but that rate of growth remains below pre-Great Recession levels and only slightly above the sluggish pace seen during the recovery.
Headed into 2016, the official unemployment rate is 5%. However, a broader measure that accounts for the underemployed – people not looking for work or working part-time for economic reasons – was at 9.9%.