December Labor Gains: Broad-Based and 2013′s Best

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U.S. employers added 238,000 new positions to payrolls last month, making December both the fifth month of solid job creation and the strongest month of employment gains in 2013, according to the employment report prepared by payroll processor ADP. The U.S. economy added an average of 204,000 jobs from August through November, an increase from the 159,000 per month added between April and July, and the growth suggested the labor market had taken giant steps toward a recovery.

With monthly employment growth now averaging 200,000 jobs for several consecutive months, “job growth [has] meaningfully accelerated,” stated Moody’s Analytics chief economist Mark Zandi, whose firm helps compile payroll processor ADP’s National Employment Report.

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To Zandi, the acceleration of job growth means that businesses are becoming “more confident and increasing their hiring,” which represents a significant change in attitude from earlier in the year. For much of 2013, the slow decline of the weekly initial applications for unemployment benefits and decreasing layoffs were the only sources of strength in labor market. The decrease of jobless claims suggested that while the job market was resilient, despite the less-than-rosy growth of the U.S. economy, employers were far too worried about that slow growth and the weak spending of American consumers to boost hiring. In a typical recovery, falling jobless claims are accompanied by an expansion of hiring, but for much of last year, the job creation part of the recovery equation was missing.

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