The Department of Labor’s final numbers for 2018 included in their December release signaled very good news with an increase of 312,000 jobs for the month on the heels of updated increases for both Oct. and Nov. (it is generally accepted that it takes approximately 130-150,000 new jobs per month just to absorb the expanding workforce). Non-seasonally adjusted figures for construction revealed unemployment at 5.1 percent [up (1.2 basis points) as the seasonal winter slowdown took hold vs. November’s figure; but it was down (0.9 basis points) from a year ago in December 2017 when it stood at 5.9%]. For the year, the construction industry added approximately 280,000 employees to its rolls.
Overall unemployment moved-up 0.2 basis points (matching precisely the up-tick in labor force participation) from its 50-year low to 3.9 percent. (“Unemployed persons” jumped to 6.3 million as the government counts). The “labor force participation” rate increased 0.2 basis points to 63.1 percent. [This stat measures percentage of the eligible civilians in the labor force. At the end of the recession (June ’09) this rate stood at a healthier 65.7%. NOTE: The “labor force participation” rate works inversely to the overall unemployment figures, meaning: as it deteriorates, it actually is counted as improving unemployment (i.e., people leaving the workforce are no longer viewed as unemployed by the DOL)]. The “employment to population ratio” held constant at 60.6 percent. The average hourly earnings for employees increased in 2018 at a 3.2 percent clip (the first time over three percent in nearly a decade).
You can view the current and historical Workforce Statistics charts here.