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Upbeat employment report underscores U.S. economic strength

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. employers hired the most workers in 10 months in December while boosting wages, pointing to sustained strength in the economy that could ease fears of a sharp slowdown in growth.

The upbeat employment report from the Labor Department on Friday stood in stark contrast with reports this week showing Chinese factory activity contracting for the first time in 19 months in December and weak manufacturing across much of Europe.

Concerns about the U.S. economy heightened following surveys showing sharp declines in consumer confidence and manufacturing activity last month, which roiled financial markets. Both were seen as more red flags that the economic expansion, now in its ninth year and the second longest on record, is losing steam.

“The jump in payrolls in December would seem to make a mockery of market fears of an impending recession,” said Paul Ashworth, chief economist at Capital Economics in Toronto. “This employment report suggests the U.S. economy still has considerable forward momentum.”

Nonfarm payrolls surged by 312,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since February, as employment at construction and leisure and hospitality locations snapped back after being restrained by unseasonably cold temperatures in November.

Job gains were reported across all industries, with the exception of the information sector, which shed employment for the second straight month. Data for October and November were revised to show 58,000 more jobs added than previously reported.

The economy created 2.6 million jobs last year compared to 2.2 million in 2017.

Average hourly earnings rose 11 cents, or 0.4 percent, in December after gaining 0.2 percent in November. That lifted the annual increase in wages to 3.2 percent, matching October’s rise, which was the largest in 9-1/2 years.

Wages advanced 3.1 percent on a year-on-year basis in November. Employers increased hours for workers, pushing the average workweek up to 34.5 hours from 34.4 hours in November.

The unemployment rate increased to 3.9 percent from near a 49-year low of 3.7 percent in November as a strong labor market pulled some 419,00 jobless Americans from the sidelines. Fewer workers worked part-time for economic reasons in December.

The labor force participation rate, or the proportion of working-age Americans who have a job or are looking for one, rose two-tenths of a percentage point to 63.1 percent, the highest level since September 2017.

The strong employment report likely keeps the Federal Reserve on course to continue raising interest rates this year, deepening its rift with Wall Street and President Donald Trump, who has chastised the Fed and its chairman, Jerome Powell, repeatedly for the rate increases.

Speaking at an American Economic Association event with former Fed chiefs Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke on Friday, Powell sought to placate jittery financial markets. Powell said the U.S. central bank was “always prepared to shift the stance of policy and to shift it significantly” if necessary. He also said he would not resign if Trump asked him to so.

The Fed raised rates four times in 2018. The central bank last month forecast two rate hikes this year and signaled its tightening cycle is nearing an end in the face of financial market volatility and slowing global growth.

U.S. financial markets are projecting no rate hikes in 2019. In the latest signal that investors see little room for the Fed to lift rates any further, yields on 2-year U.S. Treasury notes US2YT=RR on Thursday dropped below the Fed’s policy rate for the first time in more than a decade.

U.S. stocks rallied on the employment report on Friday and extended gains after Powell’s comments. The dollar .DXY surrendered earlier gains against a basket of currencies and U.S. Treasury yields rose.

BROAD EMPLOYMENT GAINS

“This should, at least for today, mute expectations that the Fed is off the table completely this year,” said Omair Sharif, a senior economist at Societe Generale in New York.

The December jobs gain pushed total U.S. employment above 150 million jobs for the first time. The Labor Department has not been affected by the partial shutdown of the U.S. government and will continue to publish economic data complied by its statistics agency, the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Data releases from Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis have been suspended during the shutdown, which started on Dec. 22 amid demands by Trump for $5 billion in funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The robust labor market, especially strengthening wage growth, suggests the economy will continue to expand this year despite the ebb in consumer confidence, continued weakness in the housing market and cooling manufacturing activity.

“Strong job gains coupled with rising wages should act as a tailwind for consumption,” said Michelle Meyer, chief economist at Bank of America Merrill Lynch in New York.

Growth forecasts for the fourth quarter are around a 2.6 percent annualized rate, with risks tilted to the downside amid the fading stimulus from the Trump administration’s $1.5 trillion tax cut package, a trade war with China and policy uncertainty in Washington.

The economy grew at a 3.4 percent pace in the third quarter. It needs to create roughly 100,000 jobs per month to keep up with growth in the working-age population. Job growth averaged 220,000 per month in 2018. It is expected to slow to around 150,000 per month this year as workers become more scarce.

Anecdotal evidence has been growing of companies experiencing difficulties finding workers, and raising wages to retain and attract employees. The government shutdown, if it extends beyond next week, could weigh on January payrolls.

Employment at construction sites rebounded last month, with companies hiring 38,000 employees after adding no workers in November. Manufacturing payrolls rose by 32,000 jobs in December. Retailers hired 23,800 more workers.

FILE PHOTO: Job seekers and recruiters gather at TechFair in Los Angeles, California, U.S. March 8, 2018. REUTERS/Monica Almeida/File Photo

Professional and business services employment increased by 43,000 jobs last month and government payrolls rose 11,000. Employment in the leisure and hospitality sector increased by 55,000 jobs. The health and education sector added 82,000 positions.

(GRAPHIC: Citigroup economic surprise index – tmsnrt.rs/2SBcMFk)

Reporting by Lucia Mutikani; Editing by Dan Burns and Paul Simao

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Independent Consultant Beginner – 6 Should Have Pieces Of It Technology And Software

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Prima Wireless Earbuds Reviewhttps://primawirelessearbuds.net/.

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What Make Sure You Really Know Right Anyone Decide To Travel

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When traveling with children advised plan your route in advance. Do a little research and see as relevant and fun places to stop such as parks, museums or other attractions. Once you take breaks every non-chemical hours so everyone maybe even including the children probably get out and stretch their legs.

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Majority of Canadian workers willing to take less pay for a workplace pension plan: survey

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A majority (70 per cent) of Canadians say they’re willing to forgo a higher salary in exchange for a workplace pension plan, according to a new survey for the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan by Abacus Data.

The survey, which polled more than 2,000 Canadian adults in April, signals an opportunity for employers to build back the post-coronavirus pandemic working landscape better by expanding access to good retirement plans — whether they’re defined benefit, defined contribution or group registered retirement savings plans, says Steven McCormick, senior vice-president of plan operations at the HOOPP.

According to the survey, a secure retirement remains of greater concern for Canadians than concerns about their health, debt load and job security. McCormick says this has been a consistent worry the HOOPP has seen in survey results over the past couple of years. Nearly half (48 per cent) of respondents said they’re very concerned about having enough money in retirement, while 31 per cent were highly concerned about their personal debt load and 26 per cent cited their job security. Close to half of respondents expressed high concerns for their physical (43 per cent) and mental (40 per cent) health.

In addition, the pandemic has harmed the finances of more than half (52 per cent) of Canadians’ surveyed and it’s had a particularly disproportionate affect on the finances of younger adults. Adults aged 44 and younger said they’re twice as likely (25 per cent) to have had their finances greatly harmed, compared to those over the age of 60 (12 per cent).

Generally, younger adults tend to work in roles that may have been impacted most by the pandemic, says McCormick, whether in service industries that were shut down or frontline health care that have been busy but don’t always come with access to a pension plan. “Affordability is an issue, so I think their worries increased during this time.”

And while almost half (46 per cent) of Canadians surveyed said they’ve saved more money than they would have since the onset of the pandemic, among these respondents, over half (52 per cent) didn’t put any of their savings toward their retirement. Overall, most (63 per cent) Canadians surveyed haven’t set aside or saved anything for retirement in the past year, a five-point increase since 2019.

McCormick says this may be due to uncertainty or hesitancy about whether people’s immediate needs outweigh longer-term needs. And with 55 per cent of respondents noting they were very concerned about the cost of day-to-day living, he adds that rising prices have fuelled insecurity and worries so people are creating their own emergency funds right now.

While there’s a segment of the population who’ve saved more and, for them, the pandemic has created wealth, he doesn’t see this as a common narrative in the survey data. “If you don’t have access to a workplace pension or the opportunity to have things like automatic enrolment, the uncertainty of the time may have you holding onto money,” says McCormick. “In Ontario, we’re more optimistic about the pandemic than we were maybe a month ago, but there are still people worrying about whether there’ll be a fourth wave.”

In addition, more than two-thirds (67 per cent) of respondents said a retirement crisis is looming and 65 per cent said saving for retirement is prohibitively expensive. It’s a common and shared dream for many people in looking forward to a secure retirement, says McCormick, noting for many, making that dream a reality remains elusive.

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