The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the number of nonfarm payroll employees increased by 200,000 during December 2011, while the unemployment rate, currently at 8.5 percent (as of January 2012), continues to fall. December’s employment increase was well above the year’s monthly average of 137,000 jobs. December gains in private-sector jobs were 212,000, bringing the yearly total to 1.9 million. Government employment remained stagnant for the month and recorded an over-the-year loss of 280,000 jobs.
Employment growth in other industries was more positive. Transportation and warehousing employment jumped by 50,000 jobs in December; the highest increase of any single industry. The couriers and messengers industry grew by 42,000 workers thanks to strong seasonal hiring, and increased online sales, for the month. The retail trade continued its upward trend adding 28,000 jobs, bringing its over the year total up to 240,000. Additionally, December employment also rose in the food services industry (24,000 jobs), manufacturing and healthcare (23,000 jobs each), and mining (7,000 jobs).
Along with the general rise in national employment, average hourly earnings for private, nonfarm employees were up for both December, and the year. Average private-sector payrolls rose four cents in December reaching $23.24 per hour. Average hourly earnings over the previous 12 months rose 2.1 percent.
During the period from December 2010 to December 2011, the size of the unemployed population fell by 823,000; however, of those unemployed during December 2011, 42.5 percent had been without employment for at least 27 consecutive weeks. The number of persons employed part-time for economic reasons decreased from 8.7 million to 8.1 million for the month. The size of the group of unemployed persons reporting as “discouraged workers” also fell by 373,000, bringing that number to the new total of 945,000 for December 2011.