December Unemployment Held Steady; U-7 Down Again

BY Paul Solman  January 4, 2013 at 10:45 AM EDT

job seeker
A job seeker looks over material during a HIREvent job fair in San Jose, Calif. Photo by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images.

Nothing dramatic on the jobs front this month. December’s unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 percent. The U.S. added 155,000 new jobs during the month, bringing the grand total of net new jobs for 2012 to more than 1.8 million.

The U-7 figure, our all-inclusive measure of the un- and underemployed, dropped from 16.60 to 16.50 percent. The short story seems to be: a couple of hundred thousand more Americans in the workforce; a couple of hundred thousand more with jobs.

Here’s the view from elsewhere:

From the Wall Street Journal‘s Eric Morath and Jeffrey Sparshott: “U.S. job growth slowed slightly in December, showing that the economy muddled along as Congress fought over tax increases and spending cuts. U.S. nonfarm payrolls increased by a seasonally adjusted 155,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said Friday. The unemployment rate, obtained by a separate survey of U.S. households, was 7.8 percent, the same as the prior month, after an upward revision to the November figure. Both readings were slightly worse than expected. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires expected a gain of 160,000 jobs and a 7.7 percent unemployment rate.”

At the New York Times, Catherine Rampell writes:

“Despite their concerns about looming tax increases and government spending cuts, American employers added 155,000 jobs in December, about apace with job growth over the last year, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

The biggest gains were in health care, food services, construction and manufacturing, with the latter two probably helped by rebuilding after Hurricane Sandy. Government payrolls fell modestly once again, the report said.”

London’s Financial Times headlined “US Adds 155,000 Jobs in December” and called it “a sign that the economy shrugged off concerns about the fiscal cliff and continued to grow at a modest pace.”

From Bloomberg:

“Employers added workers in December at about the same pace as the prior month, and the unemployment rate matched a four-year low, showing sustained gains in the U.S. labor market even as lawmakers were struggling to reach a budget deal.”

And finally, here’s a link to the monthly “Jobs Byte” post from economist Dean Baker,. Baker follows these data as closely as anyone I know and has helped me make sense of them in the past. His bottom line?

“There is little in this report to suggest any divergence from the modest growth path that the economy has been following the last two years. The 155,000 pace of job growth is consistent with a declining unemployment rate, but will not return us to full employment until the next decade.”