US employment increased less than expected in December but a rebound in wages pointed to sustained labor market momentum that sets up the economy for stronger growth and further interest rate increases from the Federal Reserve this year. The survey on which January's jobs report will be based will be conducted next week, before the inauguration, and released on February 3. The unemployment rate rose 0.1 percentage points to 4.7% after a 0.3 point decline in November, and average hourly earnings rose 10 cents, bringing the closely watched year-over-year gain to 2.9%, the best gain since May 2009.
December marks the 75 straight month of job growth - the most extended streak the country has seen since 1939.
"It will show the economy finished 2016 on a strong note with buoyant activity", said Thomas Costerg, a US economist at Standard Chartered Bank in NY said to Reuters.
Retail sector employment rose 6,300 after increasing 19,500 in November. Hourly pay increased 2.9% from December 2015 to December 2016, marking the fastest 12-month increase since a recovery that began in mid-2009.
The report is the last reading on employment that will be issued during Barack Obama's presidency, but it isn't the final word on job creation during his two terms in office. Wage growth has been one of the last measures to gain momentum during Obama's tenure. Since President-elect Donald Trump's victory, various surveys of consumer confidence have shown that Americans' optimism about the labor market has improved.
US stock index futures pointed to a flat open on Friday as investors digested weaker-than-expected employment data. However, the president often touts that America has added 15 million jobs during his time, which is true if you discount the job losses during the recession and start counting jobs added since February 2010. Growth remains sluggish. The U.S. central bank expects growth to be a mere 2.1% this year. Others criticize the Fed's decisions.
Trump, who takes over from President Barack Obama on January 20, has pledged to increase spending on the country's aging infrastructure, cut taxes and relax regulations.
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