The Department of Labor released its December employment situation report (link opens in PDF) today, and its messages were mixed. After increasing a revised 241,000 for November, total nonfarm payroll employment bumped up a slight 74,000 last month, missing analyst estimates of a 200,000 gain.
Retail trade (+55,000), professional services (+19,000), and wholesale trade (+15,000) provided the main push behind the latest report, while information services knocked off 12,000 jobs and construction shrank 16,000.
While the unemployment rate dropped from 7% to 6.7% -- its lowest level since October 2008 -- the decline was primarily due to a drop in the labor force. Once people without jobs stop looking for one, the government no longer counts them as unemployed. Year over year, the civilian labor force participation rate -- including those working or looking for work -- is down 0.8 percentage points to 62.8%, matching a nearly 36-year low.
For those who remained in the working labor force, average hourly earnings edged up 0.1% to $24.17, missing expectations of a 0.2% rise.
December's disappointing note ensured that 2013's monthly job growth averaged 182,000, essentially the same as 2012's employment expansion.
-- Material from The Associated Press was used in this report.