The U.S. economy had a net gain of 155,000 jobs in December, while the unemployment rate remained at 7.8 percent.
Friday’s report from the Labor Department says many of the job gains were in manufacturing, construction and health care.
Government experts made an upward revision to November’s unemployment rate, which originally was reported as 7.7 percent.-
Just over 12 million people are counted as unemployed in the United States. Nearly five million of them have been out of work for 27 weeks or more.
The chairman of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, Alan Krueger, says “work remains to be done” to cut the jobless rate, but this new report shows the economy is “healing.”
But economist Alan Levenson says at the current pace of job creation it will take more than a year to get jobless rate down to a healthy rate of 6 or 6.5 percent. He is the chief economist for T. Rowe Price, a financial firm in Baltimore.
“We are creating enough jobs to lower the unemployment rate half a percentage point every 12 months,” Levenson said.
Professor Phillip Swagel of the American Enterprise Institute says job growth has been steady over the past few months, but he adds that Washington’s prolonged political wrangling over spending and taxes – the “fiscal cliff” – and worries about the national debt may have slowed the economy’s improvement.
“It has got to be the case that the policy uncertainty, the political bickering, has affected spending both by businesses and consumers, and this affected hiring. But you are right. We don’t see it. The job growth has been relatively steady. What might be the case is that this is the ‘dog that didn’t bark,’ that hiring would be higher – 200,000 or maybe 250,000 jobs a month – were it not for the uncertainty caused by the policy tussles,” Swagel said.
Economist Kevin Dunning says it is remarkable that we had even this much job growth at a time when politics in Washington made the outlook on taxes and government spending unclear for businesses and consumers.
“In that context, I think the latest jobs report is fairly upbeat, in the sense that it shows that businesses didn’t pull back from hiring,” Dunning said.
Dunning tracks business and economic trends in the United States for the Economist Intelligence Unit.