December Job Growth Staggers, But Unemployment Drops to 6.7%


The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the December 2013 employment report showing an addition of 74,000 new jobs, and a decreased unemployment rate of 6.7%, the lowest number since October 2008.

With the fourth quarter of 2013 showing robust job growth, experts were expecting to see numbers and data that continued the upward trend. What the report showed, however, was a number of contradictions.

On a positive note, the November job numbers saw the revised addition of 38,000 more jobs than previously accounted for. Additionally, the unemployment rate for December 2013 was the lowest since October 2008. With the completion of the December data, the average job gain for 2013 was 182,000 jobs a month, about the same as 2012.

A deeper look at the numbers showed many pieces of conflicting data— after such strong reports in the past few months, what did this number mean? The gain of 74,000 jobs in December 2013 was the smallest addition seen since January 2011.

The lowered unemployment rate pointed to a high number of those reporting themselves as not a part of the labor force (347,000). While some of these numbers being attributed to people who have stopped looking for work, and weather troubles, many experts are beginning to wonder how many retirees factor in this number—particularly as more and more baby boomers opt to leave the workforce.

The private sector saw the addition of 84,000 jobs and other sectors showing job growth included manufacturing (+9,000), retail (+55,300), financial activities (+4,000), professional and business services (+19,000), and leisure and hospitality (+9,000). The temporary help services subsector saw a strong addition of +40,400 jobs.

So what does this mean? With such conflicting data, many economists and experts have noted that the public shouldn’t put too much of an emphasis on the data as the February report will have a number of benchmark revisions which should provide a more comprehensive look at the numbers.

At Adecco, our clients closed out 2013 on a strong note and many have factored hiring into their workforce plans for 2014—a positive sign that employers are feeling encouraged enough in the economy to move forward rather than holding onto cash.