Unemployment continued its steady decline last month: It finished the year at 5.6%, its lowest rate since 2008, as the economy added 252,000 jobs. But that strong showing was tempered by a 0.2% decline in hourly wages, a potential sign that the U.S. economy remains fragile even as it expands.
“We have continued, solid job growth,” Michael Feroli, chief U.S. economist at JPMorgan Chase & Co., told Bloomberg. “It shows really solid momentum in U.S. growth. There are not a lot of places in the world where we see that these days.”
Over the course of 2014, 3 million Americans found work, the strongest job growth in 15 years. Last month’s job gains were primarily driven by opportunities in business services, construction, food services, health care, and manufacturing, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Economists are cautiously optimistic that December’s 0.2% wage decline, which followed a 0.2% wage increase in November, is the result of the holidays: Employers were hiring a lot of low-paid seasonal workers that month. But others point to wages’ sluggish growth as a larger sign of concern, because it appears tied to troubling trends in under-employment and long-term unemployment that have plagued specific worker segments.
[via New York Times]