December jobs, wage growth and business inventories: 3 things to watch for on Friday

A help wanted sign is displayed in the window of a Brooklyn business in New York.
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Here's what you need to know about Friday before you hit the door.

Employment numbers

The Department of Labor will release its employment numbers for December before the market opens. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect nonfarm payrolls to grow by 160,000.

That would be a slowdown from November, when the economy added 266,000 jobs with an unemployment rate of 3.5%. Job growth averaged 180,000 per month through the first 11 months of 2019.

The report could mark the 11th consecutive month below 4% unemployment.

November's jobs growth was boosted by a rise in manufacturing employment, due partially to the end of a strike by the United Automobile Workers.

The manufacturing sector as a whole added 53,000 jobs in November, with health care sector and the leisure and hospitality sector each adding 45,000.

Mining was the worst performing sector in November, shedding 7,000 jobs.

Wage growth

Investors will also be watching to see how wages change in the Labor Department's report to get a sense of how healthy the labor market is.

According to last month's release, hourly wages had grown by 3.1% over the past year. Economists polled by Dow Jones project that number to be the same in December, representing growth of 0.3% month over month.

Wages have grown slowly throughout the recovery, even as the unemployment rate has fallen. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said last month that he didn't think the labor market was necessarily "tight" because of the low wage growth.

Powell previously said the Fed would like to see the benefits of the growing economy spread "more broadly to all Americans," but that fiscal programs may be better suited to that than monetary policy.

The average hourly rate was $28.29 in November, an increase of 7 cents from the month before.

Business inventories

The Commerce Department will release data on wholesale inventories for November. Economists polled by Dow Jones expect the number to be flat relative to the October report, which had inventories at $675.6 billion.

The October reading was a 1.1% increase compared with the same month in 2018. The biggest changes on a seasonably adjusted basis were drug inventories, which rose by 4.2% compared with September, and petroleum, which fell 3.7%.

October also saw the ratio of inventory to sales for merchant wholesalers increase to its highest level since 2016. That rise has mainly been driven by declining sales, which fell for the third straight month in October.

Major events (all times Eastern):

Employment data 8:30 a.m.

Wholesale inventories 10:00 a.m.