The U.S. economy closed out 2015 with a huge round of job creation.
Nonfarm payrolls grew by 292,000 during December, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report Friday that showed employment momentum as the year wound down. The unemployment rate was 5 percent. A separate, more encompassing measure that accounts for those who did not look for work in the past month or were working part time for economic reasons — the underemployed — head steady as well, at 9.9 percent.
Economists had been expecting 200,000 new positions and the unemployment rate to hold steady. Stock market futures temporarily jumped after the report, with Wall Street bidding Friday to halt the worst market start in history. Government bond yields edged higher, with the benchmark 10-year note yielding about 2.18 percent.
The one disappointment from the report came in wages, which actually fell slightly. Average hourly earnings declined 1 cent, translating to an annualized gain of 2.5 percent. Economists had been expecting a gain of 0.2 percent monthly and 2.8 percent annualized.
The reason for the weak wage data could be because job creation was greatest in professional and business services, which added 73,000, 34,000 of which were temporary positions likely added in conjunction with holiday hiring. The average work week was unchanged at 34.5 hours.
"In some ways we can say it looked good from the outside, but beneath the surface problems remain — not the least of which is the lack of strong wage growth," Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.com, said in a statement. "If we keep getting strong hiring, wage gains should accelerate."