WASHINGTON — The U.S. labor market ended a year of solid growth on a disappointing note in December. But economists said tax cuts are set to breathe some new life into the gradually decelerating employment recovery.
December’s gain of 148,000 net new jobs, reported Friday by the Labor Department, was down sharply from an upwardly revised 252,000 net new jobs added in November.
December’s job creation was enough to push 2017’s total over two million for the seventh straight year, although the figure was down slightly from 2016. The only other time the United States added more than two million jobs annually for such a long stretch was during the internet-fueled boom of the 1990s.
Despite the December slowdown, job creation averaged 204,000 over the final three months of 2017. That was the best quarterly pace since mid-2016.
The unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent for the third straight month. That is the lowest since the end of 2000.
Average hourly earnings rose 9 cents, to $26.63, in December after just a three-cent rise in November. Wages were up 2.5 percent in 2017, about the same annual gain as the previous two years.
Gary Cohn, the top economic adviser to President Donald Trump, said Friday that he wanted monthly job growth of more than 200,000. The corporate and individual tax cuts that took effect Monday will help push hiring back up to that level this year and spur higher worker pay, he said on Bloomberg TV.