The December jobs report came in much better than expected. This caused the stock market, which had tumbled yesterday on the news of Apple’s slowing iPhone sales in China, to rally strongly.
The American economy created 312,000 new jobs last month (seasonally adjusted, as December always has a spate of temporary jobs to handle the holiday season). That was way above the forecast of 176,000 jobs. The unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent from 3.7, but that was largely because people are entering the job market in increasing numbers, confident that they can now find a job. As a result, the participation rate–the percentage of the working-age population that is in the workforce–rose to 63.1 from 62.9. That’s the highest level in over four years.
In 2017, the first year of the Trump administration, monthly job growth averaged 182,000 a month. In 2018 it was 220,000. Hourly wages increased, too, by 11 cents to $27.48. For three months now, wages have been rising at 3 percent annually. That hasn’t happened since the recession ended in 2009.
As always, not everything points upward. Both manufacturing activity and consumer confidence are down, although still in positive territory. And that’s more than can be said for the Chinese economy, where the manufacturing index has slipped into negative territory. If China goes into a real recession, it’s hard to see how the American economy can keep chugging along as before.
And, in case you hadn’t noticed, the stock market had a dreadful month in December, though it rallied at the end. The stock market is a leading indicator and usually contracts before the economy as a whole. But, as the old Wall Street joke goes, the market has predicted ten of the last five recessions.