The U.S. economy added just 199,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate fell to 3.9 percent.
Economists had forecast 422,000 jobs and an unemployment rate of 4.1 percent, although this week’s report on private payrolls from ADP indicating that the private sector added 807,000 jobs had created some anticipation that the official figure would be higher than the consensus forecast.
Consumers in the U.S. spent heavily this year on Christmas gifts, pushing retail sales up 11 percent higher than 2019 in the traditional holiday shopping season beginning November 1. And lots of shopping took place earlier this year as consumers fretted that snarled supply chains would lead to shortages of goods. In anticipation of that, many businesses staffed up earlier in the year than is traditional.
The results can be seen in the jobs numbers. The economy added on 379,000 jobs in September and 546,000 in October, more than expected for each month. But much of that hiring appears to have been borrowed from the future, so to speak. In November, traditionally a big month for hiring, the economy added just 249,000 jobs.