156,945,000: 2018 Ends With Record Employment; Participation Rate Hits Trump-Era High

By Susan Jones | January 4, 2019 | 8:43am EST
Retailers say the 2018 holiday shopping season was a strong one. (File Photo by Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

(CNSNews.com) - Amid concerns about trade with China and rollercoaster stock markets, the final employment report of 2018 counts as good news.

The Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics said on Friday the economy added an impressivve 312,000 jobs in December, which was a month of strong retail sales; and the nation's unemployment rate increased two-tenths of a point to 3.9 percent, which is still an 18-year low.

The number of employed Americans has now set a 14th record under Trump:

When Trump became president in January 2017, 152,076,000 Americans were employed. Last month, that number grew to a record 156,945,000, a gain of 4,869,000 in two years.

At the same time, the number of unemployed Americans increased by 276,000 last month, to 6,294,000, as more people were actively looking for work but had not found a job.

In another positive sign, the labor force participation rate increased two-tenths of a point to 63.1 percent, the highest it's been since Trump took office.

In December, the nation’s civilian noninstitutionalized population, consisting of all people age 16 or older who were not in the military or an institution, reached  258,888,000. Of those, 163,240,000 participated in the labor force by either holding a job or actively seeking one.

The 163,240,000 who participated in the labor force equaled 63.1 percent of the 258,888,000 civilian noninstitutionalized population. The participation rate has showed little change since Trump took office. The highest it's ever been is 67.3 percent in the year 2000.

Among the major worker groups in December, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.6 percent) and Blacks (6.6 percent) increased in December. The jobless rates for adult women (3.5 percent), teenagers (12.5 percent), Whites (3.4 percent), Asians (3.3 percent), and Hispanics (4.4 percent) showed little or no change over the month.

In December, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose 11 cents to $27.48. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 84 cents, or 3.2 percent.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised up from +155,000 to +176,000, and the change for October was revised up from +237,000 to +274,000. After revisions, job gains have averaged 254,000 per month over the last 3 months.

The number of Americans counted as not in the labor force --  many are retirees -- dropped by 288,000 in December but remains high at 95,649,000.

China trade and earnings

Kevin Hassett, who chairs the White House Council of Economic Advisers, told CNN on Thursday that while the U.S. economy is growing at a 3 percent rate, "the rest of the world is slowing." Hassett said that slowdown is having an impact on earnings, particularly for companies that do business in China.

Hassett said he anticipates that "a heck of a lot of U.S. companies that have a lot of sales in China" are going to see their earnings downgraded -- until a trade deal with China is finalized.

"If we have a successful negotiation with China, then, you know, Apple's sales and everybody else's sales will recover," Hassett said.

Asked if he is concerned about the onset of recession later this year or in early 2020, Hassett said not really:

Look, there's never been a recession that started in the quarter after a quarter like the one that we just had in the fourth quarter of last year. And so we're carrying a lot of momentum in the next year. We had a lot of capital spending last year which meant that firms were building new factories. As those factories, you know, plug their machines in and start producing output, that will increase GDP next year.

And so with the kind of momentum we've got, I really don't see a recession next year. And I think that if we add...positive outcomes to the things that have stressed markets like the trade negotiations, then there's lots of upside risk in the market.

But I think that the news today, you know, and I don't want to talk specifically about Apple, the news today is something that one should expect, and I'm sure that the equity analysts all over the place are looking for firms that have a large share of their profits from sales in China, because absolutely, 100 percent, the Chinese economy is slowing in a way that I haven't seen really in more than a decade. And that's going to be bad for profits for U.S. firms that sell things in China.


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