economy jobs

Decade’s Last Jobs Report Is Passable, But Underwhelming

It's been a good run...

The US economy added 145k jobs in December, fewer than expected, closing out the decade on a somewhat subdued, yet generally positive note.

The market was looking for 160k. The range was 54k to 221k. The unemployment rate stuck at a rock-bottom 3.5%.

This comes as something of a letdown for anyone expecting an encore from November’s blockbuster report, which served to dispel the notion that the late-summer swoon across various key indicators might be presaging a US downturn headed into an election year.

Revisions subtracted 14k from the previous two months. The October and November headline prints are now 152k and 256k, respectively.

Private payrolls rose 139k in December, also less than expected. Consensus was looking for 153k. Manufacturing payrolls sank 12k, much worse than the 5k addition economists expected, and below even the most pessimistic estimate. The economy added 58k manufacturing jobs the previous month.

Average hourly earnings, meanwhile, rose a cooler-than-expected 2.9% YoY, less than the 3.1% consensus anticipated and the first sub-3% print since July of 2018. The MoM rise was just 0.1%, well below the 0.3% estimate.

Although subdued wage growth underscores the Goldilocks narrative for the Fed, it also raises the specter of wages not keeping up with price growth later on down the road, assuming the price Phillips curve ever wakes up.

This marks the last jobs report of the decade. December’s numbers bring the 2019 total to 2.11 million, around a quarter-million more than economists forecast a year ago.

And yet, it also marks the slowest pace since 2011 and a steep decline from the 2.68 million jobs the economy added in 2018.

It’s been a good run…

Estimates and priors

  • Change in Nonfarm Payrolls, est. 160,000, prior 266,000
  • Average Hourly Earnings YoY, est. 3.1%, prior 3.1%
  • Average Hourly Earnings MoM, est. 0.3%, prior 0.2%
  • Change in Private Payrolls, est. 152,500, prior 254,000
  • Change in Manufact. Payrolls, est. 5,000, prior 54,000
  • Unemployment Rate, est. 3.5%, prior 3.5%
  • Average Weekly Hours All Employees, est. 34.4, prior 34.4
  • Labor Force Participation Rate, prior 63.2%
  • Underemployment Rate, prior 6.9%


  • U.S. Dec. Nonfarm Payrolls Rose 145k; Unemp. Rate at 3.5%
  • Nonfarm payrolls, net revisions, -14k from prior two months
  • Participation rate 63.2% vs prior 63.2%
  • Avg. hourly earnings 0.1% m/m, est. 0.3%, prior 0.3%
    • Y/y 2.9%, prior 3.1%; est. 3.1%
  • Nonfarm private payrolls rose 139k vs prior 243k; est. 153k, range 55k-221k from 35 economists surveyed
  • Manufacturing payrolls fell 12k after rising 58k in the prior month; economists estimated 5k, range -10k to 15k from 19 economists surveyed
  • Unemployment rate 3.5% vs prior 3.5%; est. 3.5%, range 3.4%-3.7% from 74 economists surveyed
  • Underemployment rate 6.7% vs prior 6.9%
  • Change in household employment 267k vs prior -8k


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