WASHINGTON (AP) – The best year for US hiring since 1999 likely ended with another solid gain in December, supporting expectations that the United States will strengthen further even as overseas economies stumble.
Analysts have forecast that US employers added 243,000 jobs in December, according to a survey by data provider FactSet. The unemployment rate is expected to remain a nearly normal 5.8 per cent, the lowest in six years.
The Labor Department will release the jobs report at 8.30am Eastern time Friday.
American businesses have been largely shrugging off signs of economic weakness overseas and continuing to hire at healthy rates. The US economy’s steady improvement is especially striking compared with the weakness in much of the world.
Europe is barely growing, and its unemployment rate is nearly double the US level. Japan, the world’s third-largest economy, is in recession.
Russia’s economy is cratering as oil prices plummet. China is straining to manage a slowdown. Brazil and others in Latin America are struggling.
Fears about significantly cheaper oil spooked investors earlier this week before financial markets recovered. But most economists remain optimistic that lower energy prices will benefit US consumers and many businesses and give the American economy a further boost.
Hiring surged in November as 321,000 jobs were added, the most in nearly three years. December’s job gain should raise last year’s total to nearly three million, which would be the most in 15 years.
The improving jobs picture has healed some of the deep scars left by the Great Recession. The number of people who have been unemployed for more than six months fell 27 per cent last year. And the number working part time who would prefer full-time work dropped 12 per cent.