The unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage point to 9.4% in December, the lowest level since May 2009 and the biggest fall in more than a decade. Additionally, nonfarm payroll employment increased by 103,000, according to the Labor Department, which noted that while employment rose in leisure and hospitality and in health care, it was little changed in other major industries.
While both measures were positive moves, the job additions fell short of the 150,000 anticipated by economists – and analysts said that much of the drop in the unemployment rate was the result of individuals giving up on seeking employment, rather than finding it.
On the other hand, the Labor Department also noted that the change in total nonfarm payroll employment for October was revised upwards, from a gain of 172,000 jobs to 210,000, and the change for November was also revised higher, from a gain of 39,000 jobs to one of 71,000.
The Labor Department noted that the average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls held at 34.3 hours in December. The manufacturing workweek for all employees declined by 0.1 hour to 40.2 hours, while factory overtime remained at 3.1 hours. The average workweek for production and non-supervisory employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 0.1 hour to 33.6 hours.
During the month, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 3 cents, or 0.1% to $22.78, according to the Labor Department, which noted that over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 1.8%. In December, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees rose by 2 cents, or 0.1%, to $19.21.