Frances Perkins Department of Labor Building in Washington, DC

WASHINGTON, DC—Now that the December figures are in, it’s clear that 2012 was indeed an unexciting year for the US employment market. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today that nonfarm payroll employment rose by just 155,000 last month, leaving the unemployment rate unchanged at 7.8%. That number has moved little since September.

In fact, it’s not too far off from where the year started, if you look at the seasonally adjusted unemployment rates for the rest of 2012. The year started off with an 8.3% unemployment rate and dipped just 10 to 20 basis points over the months leading up to October, when it hit 7.8%. The average monthly job gain for the year was 153,000, the same as in 2011.

The biggest job gains this past month were in the healthcare, food services and drinking places, construction and manufacturing industries. The bulk of the 45,000 new jobs in healthcare were in ambulatory health care services, which added 23,000 positions, as well as hospitals (12,000) and nursing and residential care facilities (10,000). For the year, the healthcare business added 338,000 jobs. 

Food services and drinking establishments hired 38,000 new workers last month, and an average of 24,000 per month in 2012—almost identical to last year’s trend. Construction crews received 30,000 new members in December, thanks to 13,000 new people constructing buildings and another 12,000 hired by residential specialty trade contractors.

Despite the Christmas shopping season, retail trade employment changed little in December, after increasing by 143,000 over the previous three months. And after adding 55,000 new jobs over between September and November, clothing and accessories stores saw the greatest losses, 19,000 positions.

Meanwhile, employment in other industries, including office-using sectors like financial activities, professional and businesses services and government, showed little change over the month—a potential reflection of corporate America’s hesitancy in decision-making over the past year.


For informaion on employment at a regional level, such as Natalie Dolce’s series on Southern California’s labor situation, visit’s local editions.

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