The unemployment rate in December fell to 5.6 percent and 252,000 jobs were added, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This means 2014 was the best year for job growth since 1999, with 2.95 million jobs added, and the final month’s unemployment number is the lowest since June 2008. News of improvement comes as all signs continue to point to economic recovery, with the gross domestic product increasing 5 percent and Wall Street reaching all-time highs.
Despite the good news, wage growth declined in December, especially after showing promise in November when average hourly earnings increased by 6 cents. There was a 5-cent decrease to $24.57 an hour in December.
“It’s always welcome news when more Americans find work,” House Speaker John Boehner said. “Yet while the economy is showing some signs of improvement, far too many middle-class families are struggling to bridge the gap between rising costs and stubbornly flat paychecks.”
Hourly wages have seen a relatively slow increase in the past year, increasing by only 1.7 percent. “The simple fact is we cannot consider an employment report a success, no matter how healthy the headline may be, if wage data does not begin to accelerate,” BTIG chief strategist Dan Greenhaus said.
National Retail Federation Chief Economist Jack Kleinhenz was encouraged by the job growth despite the drop in wages.
“Today’s job’s report, again, was very strong and shows the labor market is maturing and economy performing soundly,” Kleinhenz said. “However, the earnings data was a bit disappointing. Though the labor market slack is diminishing, the drop in energy prices and anemic wage growth, the Federal Reserve appears to have more runway for its ‘liftoff” of short-term rates.”