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Updated: January 10, 2020

US economy adds 145,000 jobs in December

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The US economy added 145,000 jobs in December, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.

Although the headline number slightly missed economists' expectations, the unemployment rate remained steady at 3.5%, a historic low. Over the past three months, an average of 184,000 new positions were added per month.

December's jobs total was nearly 100,000 jobs fewer than in November, when workers returning from the General Motors strike boosted numbers. Hiring remained strong: As long as 100,000 jobs or more are added each month, the economy can keep up with population growth, Nela Richardson, investment strategist at Edward Jones, told CNN Business.

"In our view, the labor markets stays healthy in 2020, but job growth will level off," Richardson added.

The report was filled with bright spots: The retail sector went on a particularly strong hiring spree in December, thanks to a very strong holiday shopping season. 41,000 retail jobs were added last month.

Yet jobs continued to evaporate in America's battered manufacturing sector, which has struggled during the US-China trade war. The industry lost 12,000 jobs, compared with an expected increase of 5,000 new positions.

Paychecks rose less than expected in December, climbing only 0.1%. For the year, that put wage growth at 2.9%, less than the 3.1%.

The good news is that inflation in America is also low, so even tepid growth in salaries helps household incomes rise. That is good for the economy, two-thirds of which is driven by consumer spending.

The Federal Reserve, which cut interest rates three times last year to boost the economy, is expected to keep monetary policy steady in 2020. With little inflation to worry about, this forecast seems realistic.

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