<html> <head><style type ="text/css">body { font-family: "Bloomberg Prop Unicode I", Verdana, sans-serif; font-size:125%; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; color: #FF9F0F; background-color: #000000; text-align: left; } p {line-height: 1.25em; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" );} h1, h2, h3 { text-align: left; font-weight: normal; color: #FFFFFF; } h1 { font-size: 130%; } h2 { font-size: 115%; } h3 { font-size: 100%; } #bb-style { font-size: 90%; max-width:900px; width:expression(document.body.clientWidth > 900? "900px": "auto" ); } b, strong { font-weight: bold; } i, em { color: #FEC54A; } pre { font-family: "Andale Mono", "Monaco", "Lucida Console"; letter-spacing: -0.3pt; line-height: 1.25em; } table { border: 0; font-size: 90%; width: 100%; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; } td, tr { text-align: left; } td.numeric { text-align: right; } a:link { color:#53B2F5; text-decoration: none; } a:visited {color:#53B2F5} a:active {color:#53B2F5} a:hover {color:#53B2F5} </style> </head> <body> <p>By Paula Dwyer</p> <p>Steady as she goes. That about sums up the December <a title="Link to Labor Dept. report" href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.toc.htm">payrolls report</a> released this morning. Employers added 155,000 workers last month following a revised 161,000 advance in November. The unemployment rate held at 7.8 percent. (November unemployment had previously been revised up from 7.7 percent.)</p> <p>For the glass-half-full analysis, the U.S. Labor Department gathered the numbers before Congress and President Barack Obama agreed on a budget deal. Considering that corporate executives kept adding jobs -- despite bitter complaints that the fiscal-cliff shenanigans were holding back the economy -- the latest figures signal that the Jan. 1 budget agreement will <a title="Link to related news story" href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-01-04/u-s-stock-futures-are-little-changed-before-jobs-report.html">unleash even more</a> hiring.</p> <p>December payrolls, moreover, exceeded expectations: The median estimate of 82 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for an increase of 152,000. Even average hourly earnings climbed 2.1 percent, to $23.73, from a year earlier. That is the biggest gain in a year.</p> <p>While it isn't breaking any records, the economy created 1.84 million jobs for a second straight year. And that includes continued layoffs by government at all levels.</p> <p>True, the December figures may have risen because of construction following superstorm Sandy. Yet other factors, including increased consumer confidence and stronger retail sales, are also driving labor-market improvements. For example, Macy's Inc., the second-biggest U.S. department-store company, reported a 4.1 percent rise in December sales at stores open at least a year, while Gap Inc., the largest U.S. specialty-apparel retailer, had a 5 percent increase.</p> <p>Another good sign can be found in the "U-6" figures -- a broader measure of unemployment because it includes those actively hunting for work, the jobless who aren't looking but say they would take a job, and part-time workers who would prefer a full-time job. In December, the number of part-time workers who would like full-time jobs declined by 220,000, probably because they found full-time positions.</p> <p>(Paula Dwyer is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board. <a href="https://twitter.com/paulaEdwyer">Follow</a> her on Twitter.)</p> <p>For more quick commentary from Bloomberg View, go to <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/view/the-ticker/">The Ticker</a>.</p> </body> </html>