Unemployment Falls to 5.6 Percent, Lowest Rate Since 2008

By Roy Maurer Jan 9, 2015
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The U.S. economy added 252,000 jobs in December 2014, and unemployment fell from 5.8 percent to 5.6 percent, ending a strong year for job growth, according to the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The latest jobs numbers released Jan. 9, 2014, report that the pace of overall job growth averaged 246,000 a month last year, up from 194,000 a month in 2013. The unemployment rate fell one percentage point in 2014 from 6.6 percent in January to 5.6 percent by the end of the year.

Professional and business services employment rose by 52,000 in December. In 2014, employment in professional and business services increased by 732,000.

Construction added 48,000 jobs in December, employment in food services rose by 44,000, health care added 34,000 jobs and manufacturing employment rose by 17,000. Manufacturing added 186,000 jobs in 2014, up from a gain of 88,000 in 2013.

Employment in retail grew by 7.7 thousand jobs, following a large gain in November. Retail employment grew by 250,000 in 2014.

The number of jobs created in October and November 2014 was also revised upward by 50,000 for the two months combined, according to BLS.

But the good news on job creation was dampened by a dip in average hourly earnings, which fell by 5 cents to $24.57 in December, following an increase of 6 cents in November. Average hourly earnings were weak all year, rising only by 1.7 percent in 2014.

The BLS Household Survey determined the unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in December to 5.6 percent, and the number of unemployed fell by 383,000 to 8.7 million. In 2014, the unemployment rate declined by 1.1 percentage points, and the number of unemployed decreased by 1.7 million, according to the report. Almost two-thirds of the decline in the level of unemployment in 2014 occurred among the long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or longer).

The labor force participation rate edged down in December to 62.7 percent, a 36-year low. The number of people referred to as “involuntary part-time workers” remained 6.8 million.

The number of people classified as wanting to work but not actively looking for work in December remained at 2.3 million. The number of “discouraged workers,” a group who have given up looking for work, was 740,000 in December, down by 177,000 from a year ago.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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