December Job Growth Surpasses Economists' Forecasts

January 5, 2007 ( - Non-farm payroll employment climbed by 167,000 to 136.2 million in December, a significant jump from the 132,000 job gains recorded the month before, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

According to Reuters, the figures from the BLS are higher than the 100,000 jobs that Wall Street economists predicted.  

The unemployment rate was unchanged at 4.5% (See Employment for November Beats Predictions) and average hourly earnings grew by 0.5% or $0.08.

The BLS report showed job gains in several of the service industries, including professional and business services, health care and food services.

Commercial banking added 5,000 jobs in December and employment in financial activities was up by 153,000 over the year. The insurance industry posted jobs gains of 46,000 while insurance and the credit intermediation industry saw gains of 62,000, which includes commercial banking.

Professional and business services jobs increased by 50,000 during the month, an increase over the 43,000 jump those industries saw in November. More specifically, job gains occurred in services to buildings and dwellings (13,000) and in management and technical consulting services (7,000).

Health care employment added 31,000 in December, with ambulatory services gaining 14,000 jobs and hospitals 11,000. Over the year, health care employment has increased by 324,000.

After a 39,000-job gain in November, employment in retail trade was slightly off in December, with building and garden supply stores losing 8,000 jobs.

Manufacturing employment continued to trend down over the month with declines in motor vehicles and parts (-5,000), primary metals (-3,000), and textile mills (-2,000).  Over the year, manufacturing employment fell by 72,000, according to the BLS data.

Employment in construction was about unchanged in December following losses in November of 29,000 and losses in October. 

Food services and drinking places added 23,000 jobs, less robust than the 34,000 job gain in November, and temporary help services employment was little changed over the month and over the year.