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Five Takeaways From December Employment Report

Wall Street Journal (01/10/14) Kathleen Madigan

There are five things to keep in mind when looking at the December employment report, including the fact that the number of people who could not get to work due to bad weather hit a 36-year high of 273,000 in December, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. January’s payroll number could look extremely robust as the weather effect eases. Additionally, the decrease in the unemployment rate to 6.7% in December can be attributed to the fact that more jobless workers dropped out of the labor force, pushing down the labor-force participation rate to a near 35-year low of 62.8%.

Even an upward revision in November’s payroll gain failed to bring up the fourth quarter totals given that October’s payroll numbers held steady, and the health care subcomponent of the education and health care sector showed a loss of 6,000 jobs last month, the first decline since tracking of the sector began in 1990. Moreover, weak net new jobs, a shorter work week, and a mere two-cent gain in hourly pay mean wages and salaries barely budged in December.