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Government and Healthcare Sectors Lead December Job Gains

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The U.S. economy added 216,000 jobs in December, with the government and healthcare sectors posting the biggest gains.

The number of jobs added during the month was lower than the average monthly gain of 225,000 seen in 2023, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said in a Friday (Jan. 5) press release.

Still, the number of hires made by employers in December was higher than expected, Reuters reported Friday. Economists polled by the media outlet had forecast an addition of 170,000 jobs.

Leading the gains, government employment increased by 52,000 in December, with local government adding 37,000 jobs and the federal government adding 7,000, according to the BLS release.

“Government added an average of 56,000 jobs per month in 2023, more than double the average monthly gain of 23,000 in 2022,” the BLS said in the release.

Reuters attributed these increases to state and local governments’ efforts to raise education staffing levels back to where they were before the pandemic.

Healthcare added 38,000 jobs, with a growth of 19,000 jobs in ambulatory healthcare services and 15,000 in hospitals.

“Job growth in healthcare averaged 55,000 per month in 2023, compared with the 2022 average monthly gain of 46,000,” the BLS said in the release.

Two other sectors made notable gains during December, with social assistance adding 21,000 jobs and construction adding 17,000. In both sectors, the average monthly employment increase seen in 2023 was little changed from that of 2022, according to the release.

Milder-than-usual weather during the month contributed to the increase in employment in construction, Reuters reported.

The only decline reported in the release was in the transportation and warehousing sector. There, employment declined by 23,000 in December. The loss of 32,000 jobs among couriers and messengers was partially offset by the addition of 4,000 jobs in air transportation.

“Since reaching a peak in October 2022, employment in transportation and warehousing has decreased by 100,000,” the BLS said in the release.

Employment in other major industries showed little change in December, according to the release.

The BLS reported Wednesday (Jan. 3) that the number of job openings on the last day of November stood at 8.8 million, little changed from the previous month.