The unemployment rate dropped to 5.6% in December as the economy added 252,000 jobs – wrapping up the best year for the job market since 1999. A total of 2.95 million jobs were created in 2014 – the largest gain since a 3.18 million job gain in 1999. The economy has added at least 200,000 jobs for 11 straight months.
While the jobless rate fell to 5.6% – the lowest since June 2008 – more Americans dropped out of the workforce, with the labor force participation rate falling to 62.7%, matching a post-recession low. Also on a less upbeat note, hourly wages slipped .2%
Planned job cuts declined in December, falling 9.2% to 32,640, according to the Challenger job cut report. That brought the total number of announced lay-offs for 2014 to 483,171 – the lowest since 1997, when 434,350 cuts were announced. “Layoffs aren’t simply at pre-recession levels; they are at pre-2001-recession levels”, according to the report.
Consumer credit grew in November at the slowest pace in a year, gaining 5.2% to $3.30 trillion. Nonrevolving debt like car and student loans grew 7.5% while revolving debt like credit cards fell 1.3%.
The trade deficit shrank 7.7% in November to an 11-month low of $39 billion, due to cheaper oil and the smallest crude imports since 1994. Imports fell 2.2% to $235.4 billion, while exports fell 1.8% to $196.4 billion on a decline in shipments of aircraft, computer equipment and heavy machinery.
Source: Census Bureau
On a downbeat note, factory orders declined .7% in November, led by a drop in transportation equipment.
On another slightly downbeat note, the service sector grew at a slower pace in December, with the ISM non-manufacturing index slipping to a still-healthy 56.2, down from 59.3 in November.