Job creation eased last month but workers are seeing long-awaited wage gains, signs that more than seven years into a slow-growing expansion the labor market is improving enough to reap payoffs for American households.
Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 156,000 in December from the prior month, a slowdown from November’s more robust gain, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate ticked up to 4.7%, but finished 2016 at the lowest point to end a year in a decade.
Though hiring finished the year on a soft note, cumulative hiring has reduced enough slack in the labor market to force employers to pay more for talent. Wages increased 2.9% in December from a year earlier, the best annual rate since 2009 and a contrast to gains closer to 2% earlier in the expansion.
The report affirms that President-elect Donald Trump inherits an economy on a steady but unspectacular path as he prepares to take the oath of office.
“For the first time in a while, people are seeing some growth in the economy, and consumers are seeing raises beyond the bare minimum,” said John McAuliffe, chief executive of Sylvan Learning, a Maryland-based tutoring company which is looking to hire about 500 teachers for its centers. “People feel more confident about their own job prospects.”