December Jobs Report: Capping a Year of Worker-Centered Growth

In December, the U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs, bringing the 3-month moving average to 247,000. The unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, near the over 50-year low first reached earlier in the year. The sectors with the largest payroll gains in December were leisure and hospitality (+67,000), education and health care (+78,000), and construction (+28,000). Monthly job growth has decelerated since the start of 2022. However, this is consistent with an economy that is reaching full employment and transitioning to steady growth.

Chart showing the monthly change in employment (by thousands) from January 2021 to December 2022 with the 3-month moving average. The past few months have seen steady but lower growth. Source: BLS. Analysis by the Office of the Chief Economist, USDOL.
Since January 2021, the U.S. economic has added over 200,000 jobs every month. The highest months added around 700,000 jobs. The past three months (October, November and December 2022) have seen steady but lower growth at around 247,000 jobs per month.

With December’s report, we now have data on the monthly change in payrolls for all of 2022 (from December 2021 to December 2022). According to the payroll survey, the U.S. economy added 4.5 million jobs over that period. The largest total gains were in leisure and hospitality, education and health services, and professional and business services. All major industries’ payroll gains were statistically significant.

Chart showing jobs added in all major industries from December 2021 to December 2022. All changes were statistically significant. The greatest increases were in education and health services, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and manufacturing. The smallest changes were in mining and logging, information, and financial activities. Source: BLS. Analysis by the Office of the Chief Economist, USDOL.
From December 2021 to December 2022, the following industries gained jobs: mining and logging (54,000), construction (231,000), manufacturing (379,000), wholesale trade (175,700), retail trade (194,400), transportation and warehousing (207,200), information (148,000), financial activities (134,000), professional and business services (605,000), education and health services (950,000), leisure and hospitality (946,000), other services (173,000), and government (300,000).

In December, the household survey recorded a 0.2 percentage point increase in the labor force participation rate, though it was not statistically significant. The labor force grew by over 400,000 people in December and the number of individuals not in the labor force fell by over 300,000. Additionally, the unemployment rate for most racial groups fell in December but increased slightly for Black women and for Hispanic men and women. This could be due to rising labor force participation rates in December for all three of these groups.

Chart showing a breakdown of the unemployment rate by race and gender shows that all demographics have seen a drop in unemployment from January 2021 to December 2022. The current unemployment rate is highest for Black women and Black men. It is lowest for Asian women and Asian men. Source: BLS. Analysis by the Office of the Chief Economist, USDOL.
Since January 2021, the unemployment rate has dropped across demographics. The unemployment rate remains above the national average of 3.5% for Black women (5.5%), Black men (5.1%), Hispanic men (4.0%) and Hispanic women (3.7%). The December 2022 unemployment rate for white women (2.8%, white men (2.8), Asian men (2.1%) and Asian women (2.0%) is lower than the national average.

Since President Biden took office, the economy has added more than 10.7 million jobs – and the most jobs added in any two-year period on record. With significant gains across industries, 2022 was a year of steady, worker-centered growth that we will continue to focus on in the coming year.

Joelle Gamble is the chief economist for the U.S. Department of Labor.