Published: Tue, January 09, 2018
Markets | By Noel Gibbs

By the Way, Black Unemployment Just Hit the Lowest Level Ever Recorded

By the Way, Black Unemployment Just Hit the Lowest Level Ever Recorded

"The job market's done well and people feel they can actually move jobs now - that just kind of snowballed", said Dwight Johnston, chief economist for the California Credit Union League.

The better-than-expected pace of net hiring past year allowed for more tightening in the labor market than anticipated.

U.S. employment growth last month was slower than market expectations but remained solid.

The jobs numbers for December mark an increase over BLS's revised figure for November, when the legal sector employed 1,127,600 people, according to Friday's provisional data. "It's not a bad report, it doesn't shatter the mosaic of data depicting a very solid economy", Dan North, an economist at risk management firm Euler Hermes North America, told the Wall Street Journal. Consumer confidence is at almost a 17-year high. Or is full employment a smaller number than economists supposed?

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If anything, the pace of job gains surprised to the upside, as there were broad expectations that a tightening labor market, which makes it more hard for firms to find qualified workers, would stymie efforts to expand employment.

A growing labor force is bolstering confidence, a positive feedback loop that has the potential to bolster retailers' bottom lines. The jobless rate for African-Americans fell to a record low of 6.8 per cent in December. "At the end of 2017, the consumer is feeling good about the economy, therefore confidence remains quite strong". Other data indicate retail spending was solid during the holiday season and the USA consumer is in good shape.

"That's a notoriously volatile number around the holiday season, but it also reflects in part that increasing number of sales are coming from e-commerce and not brick-and-mortar stores", said David Berson, chief economist at Nationwide. There was an unexpected loss of 20,000 retail jobs during the holiday season. General merchandise stores payrolls tumbled by 27,300 in December, with employment at clothing stores dropping by 3,800 jobs.

Taken as a whole, Friday's government report points to the job market's strength and resilience 8½ years into an economic expansion.

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Through previous year, the black unemployment rate rose to 8 percent in March and fell back to 7 percent in September before falling again in December.

Some data sets put the current figure even lower. It outpaced inflation but fell below last year's 2.9 percent.

Worker pay also depends on productivity, or how efficient employees are. That is likely suppressing overall wage growth, economists say. "Median pay has been rising in all 10 metros we track", Chamberlain said.

Employers added just 148,000 new hires in the final month of the year, all but 2,000 of them in the private sector - far below economists' expectations of 200,000 jobs or more.

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"Certainly, this optimism can carry us another six months, at least", Johnston said.

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