WASHINGTON – Employers added a tepid 74,000 jobs in December, the Labor Department said Friday in a report that fell far short of expectations and suggested that 2013 was a ho-hum year for American workers.
Mainstream economists had expected a December number north of 200,000, based on other economic indicators that point to an accelerating growth rate. So Friday’s number was a huge miss, and initial reaction from economists suggested December’s weak showing was an aberration that’ll be revised upward next month.
The unemployment rate fell sharply to 6.7 percent in December, though that was because of people giving up the job search, not people finding work.
“I wouldn’t pay any attention to the (Friday) numbers. It is not consistent with any other data,” Mark Zandi, the chief economist for forecaster Moody’s Analytics, told McClatchy. “The reality is the economy is creating 200,000 jobs per month. At this pace of job growth, unemployment will decline by half a percentage point this year.
“Bottom line: I think the economy and job market have shifted into a higher gear, and that will become evident in the next few months.”
Friday’s job report closed the books on 2013, save for revisions in next month’s report. Despite the growing optimism about 2014, hiring for last year averaged 182,000 a month, slightly above the 150,000 needed to keep pace with new entrants into the workforce while knocking down the jobless rate. The 2013 average is down slightly from the 2012 average of 183,000. It means 2013 was a year of economic muddling along.