Business, Finance & Economics

Labor report shows continued slow growth in U.S. employment

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A man prepares a meal near a "help wanted" sign at a restaurant in San Francisco, Calif., last year. The unemployment rate made a surprisingly large drop in January. (Photo by Robert Galbraith/Reuters.)

The U.S. economy continues its slow slog toward recovery in December, adding 155,000 jobs, but keeping the unemployment rate at 7.8 percent, according to the latest labor report.

Some 12.2 million people remain unemployed and actively seeking a job — and many of them got a reprieve this week with the fiscal cliff bill that was pushed through Congress. The measure included an extension of unemployment benefits for the long-time unemployed, as well.

According to the labor report, the long-time unemployed accounted for nearly 40 percent of all of those who are without work, or about 4.8 million people.

That was essentially unchanged from the previous month.

The biggest drivers of the additional jobs were the healthcare sector, which added 45,000 jobs, and food services, which added 38,000, followed by construction and manufacturing.

Other industries showed little change, including government employment, which had been edging downward most of the year.

“It’s not a home-run report by any stretch, but it’s constructive,” John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics, said to The New York Times. “It’s another month of fairly stable, solid, moderate job creation.”

In addition to releasing the current month's numbers, the U.S. Department of Labor also revised previous monthly estimates of job creation. It revised the October number down to 137,000 jobs added from 138,000 jobs added previously reported, as well as raised the November number to 161,000 jobs added from 146,000 jobs added.

All told, and with November and December numbers still subject to revisions, the U.S. economy added about 1.8 million jobs in 2012. That's essentially fast enough to hire all of the people entering the work force, but not to really empty out the backlog of unemployed people.