WASHINGTON – The pace of hiring slowed last month, but the unemployment rate held at a 17-year low, suggesting it’s becoming more difficult for employers to find workers in a tight labor market.
Nonfarm payrolls rose a seasonally adjusted 148,000 in December, the Labor Department said Friday. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained at 4.1%, matching the lowest level since December 2000 for the third straight month. Hourly wages improved modestly during December, and rose 2.5% from a year earlier.
Economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal had expected 180,000 new jobs and a 4.1% unemployment rate in December. Revised figures show employers added 252,000 jobs in November and 211,000 in October, for a net downward revision of 9,000.
For all of 2017, employers added 2.1 million jobs, the seventh straight year of job growth of 2 million or better. It’s only the second time on record — the other being in the 1990s — when the economy has produced jobs at that pace for that long. Still, last year was the worst for payroll gains since 2010.
The pace of job creation in 2017 suggests the expansion may have more room to run eight and a half years after the most recent recession ended. And the economy could get an additional boost as new tax laws go into effect. The changes cut taxes for most households, which could stimulate consumer spending, and are intended to incentivize businesses to hire and invest.
To be sure, an overly tight…