2015 Hiring Ends with a Blast

By Roy Maurer Jan 8, 2016

The U.S. economy finished the year on a hiring spree, adding 292,000 new jobs while the unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent, according to a Jan. 8 report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Employers added 2.65 million jobs in 2015, the second-best year for hiring since 1999.

“Today’s gain of added jobs was a welcome surprise to many economists,” said Jennifer Schramm, SHRM-SCP, manager of workforce trends at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). “Not only was the number above expectations, but the October and November numbers were also revised upward by a combined 50,000 jobs.”

“This was the upside surprise that we were expecting based on the strong employer demand we have been seeing on Indeed,” said Tara Sinclair, chief economist for the jobs site. “Employers are hiring across a range of industries, including the bellwether industry of construction, which came in at a healthy 45,000 increase despite the anticipated credit pressure from the Fed’s first rate hike in December.”

Competition for talent will likely get more intense as the job market continues to improve, Schramm said. “Our Leading Indicators of National Employment report data show that finding qualified workers to fill jobs of most strategic importance is growing more challenging for HR professionals in many industries.”

December employment trended up from November 2015 in several industries, including professional and business services (+73,000), health care (+39,000), and food services (+37,000).

For the year, professional and business services added 605,000 jobs, compared with 704,000 in 2014. Construction added 263,000 jobs, compared with 338,000 in 2014. Job growth in health care averaged 40,000 per month in 2015, compared with 26,000 per month in 2014. Food services added 357,000 jobs in 2015.

In 2015, growth in manufacturing employment changed little (+30,000), following strong growth in 2014 (+215,000).

Employment in mining continued to decline from November to December (-8,000). After adding 41,000 jobs in 2014, mining lost 129,000 jobs in 2015, with most of the loss in support activities.

Average hourly earnings in December dropped 1 cent to $25.24, following an increase of 5 cents in November. Over the year, average hourly earnings rose modestly by 2.5 percent.

How much longer wages can remain stagnant in a competitive hiring market is top of mind for economists and employers.

“Stronger wage gains will be necessary if we’re going to continue to create around 200,000 jobs per month throughout 2016,” Sinclair said. “Eventually, employers will need to up their wage offers significantly to lure hires, and we will be watching to see how much of that will be passed through to [consumer] prices.”

Unemployment Holds Steady

There are officially 7.9 million unemployed people in the United States as of the close of 2015, representing a 5 percent jobless rate. Over the past 12 months, the unemployment rate and the number of unemployed individuals are down by 0.6 percentage points and 800,000, respectively.

The unemployment rates for adult men (4.7 percent), adult women (4.4 percent), Hispanics (6.3 percent), whites (4.5 percent) and Asians (4.0 percent) showed little movement from last month’s tally.

The jobless rate for blacks dropped over a full percentage point from 9.4 percent in November 2015 to 8.3 percent in December. Teenagers’ jobless rate rose in December from 15.7 percent to 16.1 percent.

The number of long-term unemployed individuals (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) sits at 2.1 million and accounts for 26.3 percent of the unemployed. In 2015, the number of long-term unemployed individuals fell by 687,000.

The civilian labor force participation rate remained steady at 62.6 percent. The number of people categorized as involuntary part-time workers—those seeking full-time employment but working part time—decreased from 6.1 million in November to 6.0 million in December. Additionally, 1.8 million people were considered marginally attached to the labor force—that is, they are unemployed but want and are available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the previous 12 months. Among this group, 663,000 people were considered discouraged—not currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available for them. The remaining 1.2 million people marginally attached to the labor force in December had not searched for work in the past month for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities, according to the BLS.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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