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US job gains slow in December with jobless rate at 4.7%

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Job growth in the world's largest economy slowed in the final month of 2016 and the already-low unemployment rate rose marginally, the Labor Department reported Friday.

[WASHINGTON] Job growth in the world's largest economy slowed in the final month of 2016 and the already-low unemployment rate rose marginally, the Labor Department reported Friday.

The US added a solid 156,000 jobs in December but the jobless rate nudged up to 4.7 per cent, reversing some of the sudden drop in November, when unemployment fell to 4.6 per cent, its lowest level in nearly a decade.

The figures provide the final official snapshot of the US labour market during Barack Obama's presidency and confirm a picture of the relative health of the economy he will hand over to President-elect Donald Trump later this month.

In all of 2016, the US added 2.2 million jobs, down from the 2.7 million in 2015, and 10.5 million have been added since December 2008, just before Obama took office amid the financial crisis.

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The job gains in December were short of the consensus forecast for 175,000 new positions, but while the jobs engine may have cooled in the month the report also pointed to positive trends.

The November figure saw a major upward revision of nearly 15 per cent to 204,000 net new positions added for the month, bringing the average job gains for the past three months to 165,000.

Wages also crept up, with average hourly earnings rising to US$26.00, an unusually-large increase of 10 US cents from November.

Wages gained 2.9 per cent compared to 2015, the largest 12-month increase in seven years.

The strongest job gains were seen in healthcare, which added 33,000 positions for the month; in bars and restaurants, which added 30,000; and in manufacturing, which added 17,000 new positions.

The manufacturing sector has declined by 63,000 positions since January, however, and the sector has been a primary focus of Mr Trump's.

The data showed little change in the share of long-term unemployed, or those without work for 27 weeks or more, which stood at 1.8 million people. The rate of participation in the labour force was also little changed at 62.7 per cent.

In a separate report, Commerce Department data showed the US trade deficit edged up in November as a strong US dollar helped the US import more goods and made exports more expensive.

The trade gap for the month grew US$2.9 billion to US$45.2 billion, surpassing an analyst consensus which called for a decrease of US$200 million.

AFP

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