US job growth slowed by more than expected in December as the retail sector lost more than 20,000 workers.Non-farm payrolls rose by 148,000, the Labor Department said – far lower than the revised figure of 252,000 created in November.The December unemployment rate was steady at 4.1%. Annual wages growth crept up from 2.4% in November to 2.5% as average hourly earnings rose by nine cents. Job growth surged in October and November after being held back in September by two hurricanes, although the October figure was revised down by 33,000 to 211,000.Economists have predicted slower job growth as the supply of people looking for work tightens. The unemployment rate of 4.1% is the lowest since 2000.Kully Samra, UK managing director at Charles Schwab, said the job gains were disappointing but other data, including manufacturing and economic growth, provided a more positive picture.”The US economy ended on a mixed note in 2017,” he said.
In 2017, the US added 2.1 million jobs, compared to 2.2 million in 2016.Construction and health care firms reported the strongest job gains in December, adding about 30,000 positions. Employment in manufacturing – an industry President Donald Trump has targeted for growth – also grew by about 25,000.But the losses in retail weighed on the final tally. That sector – which accounts for about 10% of jobs in the US – has been battered by the growth of online shopping and shifts in spending habits. Department stores such as Sears and Macy’s closed hundreds of locations last year, and have announced plans for more closures.Efforts to adjust the figures to account for seasonal hiring may also be affecting the numbers, analysts said.”Seasonal adjustment is always something to watch in this space, although we know that brick and mortar retail continues to retrench with more store closings and job losses on tap for the foreseeable future,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com.