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BLS Report – December 2022

Payroll Employment Rises by 223,000 in December; Unemployment Rate Edged Down to 3.5 Percent

The unemployment rate edged down to 3.5 percent in December and has remained in a narrow range of 3.5 percent to 3.7 percent since March. The number of unemployed persons edged down to 5.7 million in December.

The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons, at 3.9 million, changed little in December. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.

The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job fell by 352,000 to 5.2 million in December and is little different from its February 2020 level of 5.1 million. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the 4 weeks preceding the survey or were unavailable to take a job.

Among those not in the labor force who wanted a job, the number of persons marginally attached to the labor force declined by 231,000 to 1.3 million in December. These individuals wanted and were available for work and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months but had not looked for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey. The number of discouraged workers, a subset of the marginally attached who believed that no jobs were available for them, numbered 410,000 in December, essentially unchanged from the previous month.


  • Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 223,000 in December. Notable job gains occurred in leisure and hospitality, health care, construction, and social assistance. Payroll employment rose by 4.5 million in 2022 (an average monthly gain of 375,000), less than the increase of 6.7 million in 2021 (an average monthly gain of 562,000).
  • In December, employment in leisure and hospitality rose by 67,000. Employment continued to trend up in food services and drinking places (+26,000); amusements, gambling, and recreation (+25,000); and accommodation (+10,000). Leisure and hospitality added an average of 79,000 jobs per month in 2022, substantially less than the average gain of 196,000 jobs per month in 2021. Employment in the industry remains below its pre-pandemic February 2020 level by 932,000, or 5.5 percent.
  • Health care employment increased by 55,000 in December, with gains in ambulatory health care services (+30,000), hospitals (+16,000), and nursing and residential care facilities (+9,000). Job growth in health care averaged 49,000 per month in 2022, considerably above the 2021 average monthly gain of 9,000.
  • Employment in construction increased by 28,000 in December, as specialty trade contractors added 17,000 jobs. Construction employment increased by an average of 19,000 per month in 2022, little different than the average of 16,000 per month in 2021.
  • Social assistance added 20,000 jobs in December. Employment in individual and family services continued to trend up over the month (+10,000). Job growth in social assistance averaged 17,000 per month in 2022, compared with the 2021 average of 13,000 per month.
  • Employment in the other services industry continued to trend up in December (+14,000). Monthly job growth in other services averaged 14,000 in 2022, lower than the average of 24,000 per month in 2021. Employment in other services is below its February 2020 level by 174,000, or 2.9 percent.
  • In December, mining employment increased by 4,000, reflecting job growth in support activities for mining (+5,000). Since a recent low in February 2021, mining employment has grown by 104,000.
  • Employment in retail trade changed little in December (+9,000). Job growth in retail trade averaged 16,000 per month in 2022, less than half the average growth of 35,000 per month in 2021.
  • Over the month, employment in manufacturing changed little (+8,000), as job gains in durable goods (+24,000) were partially offset by losses in nondurable goods (-16,000). In 2022, manufacturing added an average of 32,000 jobs per month, little different than the average of 30,000 jobs per month in 2021.
  • In December, employment in transportation and warehousing changed little (+5,000). Air transportation (+3,000) added jobs over the month, while employment continued to trend down in couriers and messengers (-4,000) and in warehousing and storage (-3,000). In 2022, average job growth in transportation and warehousing (+17,000) was about half the average job growth in 2021 (+36,000).
  • In December, government employment was essentially unchanged (+3,000). Employment in state government education declined by 24,000, reflecting strike activity among university employees.
  • Employment in professional and business services remained little changed in December (-6,000). Employment in temporary help services declined by 35,000 over the month and has fallen by 111,000 since July. Job growth in professional and business services averaged 50,000 per month in 2022, roughly half of the average of 94,000 per month in 2021.
  • Over the month, employment showed little change in other major industries, including wholesale trade, information, and financial activities.

Source: Bureau of Labor and Statistics, THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION — December 2022