Who would have thought that the last month of the year would show the most jobs added to private payrolls? Certainly, this morning’s National Employment Report from payroll processor ADP took economists by surprise: those polled by Reuters were predicting the addition of 192,000 jobs, far below the actual number of 257,000 jobs.
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“2015 had a strong close with December showing the largest job gains of the year,” said Ahu Yildirmaz, VP and head of the ADP Research Institute, in a statement. “Overall, the average monthly employment growth was just under 200,000 for the year in contrast to almost 240,000 jobs per month in 2014. Weakness in the energy and manufacturing sectors was mostly responsible for the drop off.”
On the upside for manufacturing, December represented the second straight month of positive, albeit small growth, adding 2,000 jobs. Rounding out goods-producing employment, construction added 24,000 jobs.
Service-producing employment grew by 234,000 jobs last month, up from 213,000 jobs in November. Professional and business services had its biggest month of the year, with 66,000 jobs added. Trade, transportation, and utilities grew by 38,000 jobs last month, slightly less than the previous month’s 41,000 jobs. Financial activities added 13,000 jobs in December, about average for the year.
Small, medium, and large companies all saw increased job growth last month. Businesses with fewer than 50 employees added 95,000 jobs, up from 72,000 in November, while those with between 50 and 499 employees added 65,000 jobs, up nearly 10 percent from last month. Large businesses with 500 or more employees added 97,000 jobs, compared to 80,000 jobs the previous month.
“Strong job growth shows no signs of abating,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which produces the report with ADP. “The only industry shedding jobs is energy. If this pace of job growth is sustained, which seems likely, the economy will be back to full employment by mid-year. This is a significant achievement, given that the last time the economy was at full employment was nearly a decade ago.”
The question on many workers’ minds: when will lower unemployment equal higher wages? The PayScale Index, which measures the change in wages for employed U.S. workers, forecasts a 1.4 percent increase for the first quarter of 2016.
Economists polled by Reuters are expecting Friday’s report from the Labor Department to show the addition of 195,000 jobs to public and private payrolls. The unemployment rate is expected to stay at 5 percent.
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