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The U.S. unemployment rate held steady at 3.7% in December as employers stepped up the pace of hiring, adding 216,000 jobs, the federal government announced Friday. 

This reflects an increase from the 173,000 jobs gained in the previous month. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said it had revised November’s preliminary job gains estimates downward by 26,000 from 199,000 to 173,000. 

The federal Employment Situation report for December said the number of unemployed nationwide was 6.3 million. This is higher than the 5.7 million who were unemployed in December 2022 when the jobless rate was 3.5%. 

The labor force participation rate, which captures the percentage of people who are employed or job hunting, decreased by 0.3 percentage points to 62.5%. The employment-population ratio, which captures the percentage of working age individuals in the U.S., also decreased 0.3 percentage points to 60.1%. 

State-level unemployment data for December will be released later this month. New Jersey’s unemployment rate for November, the most current state data available, was 4.7%. This is a full percentage point above the national jobless rate. 

During December, U.S. employment continued to trend upward in government, healthcare, social assistance, and construction, while transportation and warehousing lost jobs. 

Government employment increased by 52,000 in December, which includes 37,000 local government jobs and 7,000 federal jobs. Government added an average of 56,000 jobs per month in 2023, more than double the average monthly gain of 23,000 in 2022. 

In December, healthcare added 38,000 jobs. Job growth in healthcare averaged 55,000 per month in 2023, compared with the 2022 average monthly gain of 46,000. 

Employment in social assistance rose by 21,000 in December. Social assistance employment rose by an average of 22,000 per month in 2023, little different than the average increase of 19,000 per month in 2022. 

In December, construction employment continued to trend up (+17,000). Construction added an average of 16,000 jobs per month in 2023, little different than the 2022 average monthly gain of 22,000.  

Employment in transportation and warehousing declined by 23,000 in December. Since reaching a peak in October 2022, employment in transportation and warehousing has
decreased by 100,000.  

Employment in leisure and hospitality changed little in December (+40,000). The industry added an average of 39,000 jobs per month in 2023, less than half the
average gain of 88,000 jobs per month in 2022. Employment in the industry remains below its pre-pandemic February 2020 level by 163,000, or 1.0%. 

Retail trade employment changed little in December (+17,000). Job gains at warehouse clubs, supercenters, and other general merchandise retailers such as building material supplies and automotive parts, were partially offset by job losses in department stores. Retail trade employment has shown little change, on net, since recovering in early 2022
from pandemic-related losses. 

In December, employment in professional and business services changed little (+13,000).  Employment in professional, scientific, and technical services continued to trend up
(+25,000); this industry added an average of 22,000 jobs per month in 2023, about half  the average monthly gain of 41,000 in 2022.  

However, employment in temporary help services continued its downward trend (-33,000) and has fallen by 346,000 since reaching a peak in March 2022. Overall, employment in professional and business services changed little in 2023. 

Employment showed little change over the month in other major industries, including manufacturing; wholesale trade; information; financial activities; and other services. 

In December, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 15 cents, or 0.4% to $34.27. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have increased by 4.1%.