Economy chalks up strong jobs growth in December

The U.S. economy kicked into a higher gear in the final month of 2018 as new figures released by the Labor Department said 312,000 jobs were created in the month of December, as the nation's jobless rate ticked up to 3.9 percent - mainly because more Americans continue to get back into the job market to look for work.

"Jobs growth remains robust," said Tendayi Kapfidze, the Chief Economist at LendingTree, as December was the second largest month of job growth in 2018, behind only the 324,000 jobs created in February.

"The 99th straight month of gains indicates that labor market remains robust and that the economy remains quite strong despite recent turmoil in the financial markets," Kapfidze added.

GOP leaders in Congress - and the President - immediately hailed the latest jobs news.

"Lower taxes and smarter regulations work," said Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI).

With jobs numbers revised upwards in both October and November, the raw job creation numbers for 2018 showed a marked increase over a year earlier - the 2018 monthly average was 219,833 jobs created, compared to the 2017 monthly average of 182,333 jobs created.

While the unemployment rate went up two-tenths of one percent in December, to 3.9 percent, much of that could be attributed to a recent four month growth spurt in the size of the labor force, as 419,000 people started looking for a job again last month.

That was in addition to increases in the labor pool of almost one million people from September, October and November combined.

The U6 rate - considered the broadest measure of unemployment - ticked up slightly in December as well to 7.6 percent, but that's still well below the 9.3 percent level when President Trump took office in January of 2017.

The number of people working part-time in December - because they could not find a full-time job - went down, as 124,000 people reported they had been able to move to a 40 hour a week job.

If January is a positive jobs month - and that could be clouded by the ongoing partial government shutdown - that would mark the 100th straight month of positive monthly job growth, which is an unusually long amount of time for the economy to keep chugging in the right direction.

"The December jobs statement contains some positive news, yet these gains threaten to slip away because of the Trump Shutdown," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

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