Unemployment Rate Continues to Shrink, Dipping Below 4%


December added another 199,000 jobs to the economy, fixing the monthly jobs creation average at 537,000 in a year that brought back a total of 6.4 million jobs. The numbers for the prior two-month period were adjusted upward by a combined 140,000.


December saw a number of similar trends from the previous month, with jobs growth continuing in professional and business services, transportation and warehousing, construction and manufacturing. Leisure and hospitality also saw an upswing.


The unemployment rate continued its steady decline, dropping another 0.3 percentage points from November’s 4.2% to 3.9% in December.


Compensation continues to be a talent attractor as average hourly wages got a 19-cent bump in December. Over the past 12 months, wages have increased by 4.7%.


The average work week was 34.7 hours.


A relatively flat performance in November gave way to a small drop in temporary labor employment in December, from a gain of 6,200 new jobs to a loss of 1,600 from one month to the next.


Although the number of new jobs in December fell short of expectations, it may signal a dwindling talent pool more so than a stalled economy. The unemployment rate continues to fall, amid significant labor market mobility. Approximately 4 million people leave their jobs every month, some to retire but many others likely seeking better pay, benefits and career development opportunities. The combination of fewer but more demanding job candidates increases the pressure on employers to approach talent attraction in more innovative ways. Money may be a great enticement to initially swell a workforce, but to maintain a strong talent bench, employers will need to focus on retention as much as recruitment as the economy continues to pick up speed. We’ve not yet put the pandemic behind us, but as we enter our third year, we’ve become used to slow but steady progress rather than spectacular. Of the 22.4 million jobs lost to the public health emergency, 84% have been recovered to date. Today we are still 3.6 million jobs short of the pre-pandemic labor market, but all the signs point to continuing momentum as we go forward.

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Steinberg Employment Research, Staffing Industry Analysts, American Staffing Association, USA Today, MarketWatch, Yahoo Finance, CNN, Kiplinger