Friday's jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is unlikely to take the Federal Reserve out of its holding pattern on interest rates, which should keep mortgage rates low and hold down other borrowing costs.

Hiring disappoints in December

No Job Openings Sign On Door
Carolyn Franks / Shutterstock
There were fewer-than-expected new jobs in December.

America's employers added 145,000 jobs to their payrolls in December — which is disappointing, because Wall Street analysts had expected the government would say hiring grew by about 165,000 jobs last month.

Also, December's job growth was puny compared to the 256,000 jobs that the U.S. economy added during November.

U.S. manufacturers lost 12,000 jobs last month, following a big gain in November that reflected the end of a strike at General Motors.

Retailers added a strong 41,000 jobs in the midst of the holiday season, even after massive store closings — which are continuing in the new year.

"Retail is suffering on two fronts: razor-thin margins and the shift in consumer preference from bricks to clicks," says Diane Swonk, chief economist with the accounting firm Grant Thornton. "Announcements of store closings have already picked up in January with Pier 1 Imports alone planning to close up to 450 stores."

Hotels and restaurants had 40,000 new jobs to offer in December, and the health care industry took on 28,000 more workers.

The nation's construction workforce grew by 20,000 thanks to unusually warm weather last month that helped to push some projects along.

Sign up for Credit Sesame and see everything your credit score can do for you, find the best interest rates, and save more money at every step of the way.

Get Started—100% Free

Unemployment remains remarkably low

Blur of office workers walking pass the Canary Wharf tube station in early morning rush hours
IR Stone / Shutterstock
Employment is the highest since 1969.

Though the numbers for December fell short, 2019 was the ninth year in a row that the expanding economy added around 2 million jobs. And low U.S. unemployment is still stunning.

The jobless rate was unchanged in December at 3.5%, the lowest in more than 50 years.

"Tight labor market conditions are giving people who once gave up a second chance. Even people who were on disability are rejoining the labor market," Swonk says.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the number of "discouraged" workers — those who are unemployed and have stopped looking because they think no jobs are available — has fallen by nearly 100,000 over the past year.

Anyone who's still sidelined should take a look at our guide to the jobs that are growing fastest in the U.S.

Raises are paltry

Close-up of a businessman's hand opening envelope with paycheck
Andrey_Popov / Shutterstock
Americans' paychecks aren't growing much.

Though ultra-low unemployment is making it tougher to find workers with the right skills, employers aren't budging much on what they're willing to pay.

Average hourly earnings in the U.S. rose just 3 cents in December, to $28.32. Americans' wages grew by just 2.9% during the past year — the smallest year-over-year increase since mid-2018.

"As would-be workers become scarcer, we would expect employers to have to work harder to attract and retain the workers they want," says Elise Gould, senior economist with the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute. "Wage growth is the most important indicator to watch in 2020."

Experts believe future reports will show bigger increases in paychecks because the minimum wage just got raised in multiple states at the start of 2020.

Want to make this the year you get the pay you deserve? Check out these eight power moves to negotiate a raise.

Compare car insurance and save up to $500 a year

If you haven't compared car insurance recently, you're probably paying too much for your policy. Getting quotes from multiple insurers used to be time-consuming, but today's technology makes it easy.

Using a free site like Pretected is easy and could help you save up to $500 a year on car insurance. In mintues, their "smart matching" system will provide tailor-made quotes from insurers that can meet all of your coverage needs - and your budget.

Stay protected on the road and find more affordable car insurance in minutes with Pretected.

What to Read Next


The content provided on MoneyWise is information to help users become financially literate. It is neither tax nor legal advice, is not intended to be relied upon as a forecast, research or investment advice, and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities or to adopt any investment strategy. Tax, investment and all other decisions should be made, as appropriate, only with guidance from a qualified professional. We make no representation or warranty of any kind, either express or implied, with respect to the data provided, the timeliness thereof, the results to be obtained by the use thereof or any other matter.