Job Growth Strong in 2018

By at 4 January, 2019, 11:28 am

The best year for U.S. job growth for some time

by Raymond J. Keating-

Employment growth in the U.S. finished strong in 2018, according to the December jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

First, according to the establishment survey, nonfarm payrolls increased by a robust 312,000 in December. Payroll growth was particularly strong in three of the last five months of 2018. In addition, the BLS noted, “Payroll employment rose by 2.6 million in 2018, compared with a gain of 2.2 million in 2017.”

If we look at December 2018 versus December 2017, nonfarm payrolls grew by 3 million. That was the largest December-to-December increase since the growth from December 2013 to December 2014.

Second, the household survey – from which we get some key employment data – also served up good news. While the unemployment rate ticked up from 3.7 percent in November to 3.9 percent in December, that was due to strong growth in the labor force.

While the household survey estimated employment growth at 142,000 in December, the labor force grew at 419,000.

The labor force participation rate moved up from 62.9 percent in November to 63.1 percent in December. The 63.1 percent rate in December was the highest level since the same level was registered in September 2017. Those two points are the only instances whereby the labor force participation rate exceeded 63 percent since September 2013.

From December 2017 to December 2018, the labor force grew by 2.6 million, which was the largest December-to-December gain since December 2005 to December 2006.

Also, the employment-population ratio remained steady at 60.6 percent for the third straight month. This 60.6 percent level was the highest level registered since January 2009.

Employment according to the household survey showed growth of 2.9 million jobs from December 2017 to December 2018. That was the largest December-to-December increase, once again, since the growth from December 2005 to December 2006.

There’s no doubt that 2018 was the best year on the U.S. jobs front in some time.


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

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