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by Courtney Alexander
The U.S. finished the year strong, with December bringing a six year low for unemployment of 5.6% according to statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. December was just the icing on the cake; this year being the best hiring year for the United States since 1999
Last month brought over 252,000 new jobs, making December the eleventh straight month of over 200,000 hires, the longest streak since 1994. October’s and November’s numbers were revised and higher than previously reported, up to +261,000 from +243,000 and up +353,000 plus +321,000 nonfarm jobs respectively, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. 50,000 more workers were added to employers’ payrolls during October and November than economists originally calculated.
December’s 5.6% unemployment rate was down from November’s 5.8%. The U.S. hasn’t seen unemployment rates that low since June 2008. White House Council of Economic Advisors chairman, Jason Furman noted that the 1.2% drop in unemployment from 2013 to 2014 was the largest decrease since 1984.
Cities in the San Gabriel valley also followed that trend: Burbank’s, Monrovia’s, Pasadena’s, Rosemead’s, El Monte’s, and Temple City’s most recent unemployment rates have been the lowest since the summer of 2008.
That unemployment rate however, was in part, due to increasing numbers of people leaving the labor force, or the number of people outside of the military who are either working or looking for work. Even though employment grew by 111,000, the number of people who are unemployed fell by over three times that amount. Many of the people who left the labor force within the last 4 weeks just gave up on finding a job, therefore not qualifying them to be counted as “unemployed”, and instead making them “discouraged workers”. The number of discouraged workers grew by 42,000 to 720,000 last month. Wages also fell 5 cents in December.
“There’s still no sign of wage acceleration. It leaves you scratching your head a little bit,” Stuart Hoffman, PNC Financial Services Group Chief Economist told CNN Money.
Still, even with wages falling and increasing numbers of discouraged workers, this year, and December especially, has brought signs of a recovering US economy. Between January 2008 and February 2010, the US lost 8.7 million jobs. According to the December Bureau of Labor Statistics report, there are now almost 2 million more people employed than there were in 2008.
This job growth has happened across multiple sectors. Health care employment was increased by 34,000 last month, with an average growth rate of 24,000 jobs per month in 2014 compared with 17,000 per month in 2013. Construction jobs in December increased by 48,000, “well above the employment gains in recent months.” according to the BLS report. And despite oil prices dropping from $100 a barrel in the summer to less than $50 now, employment in the oil and gas sectors increased, albeit less in December than in previous months. The increased number of energy sector workers despite the oil crisis is “a testament to the underlying health of the U.S. economy” according to Sal Guatieri, senior economist at BMO Capital Markets.
In November, California had the highest over the month increase in employment of any state, adding over 90,000 jobs, followed by Florida, adding almost 42,000, and Texas, adding almost 35,000 jobs. As of November, California’s unemployment rate is at 7.2%, down 0.1% from the previous month, and the lowest rate since June 2008. From October 2014 to November 2014, Los Angeles County added 29,400 nonfarm jobs to total 4,253,900, and had a seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 8%, a drop from 9.4% in November of 2013.
While hurdles remain, recent trends show a positive outlook for the US workforce.