US job growth slows as economy adds modest 148,000 December jobs

The recovery in the US jobs market slipped in December, adding 148,000 new positions over the month, below forecasts, as the unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%.

The US economy has now added more than 2m jobs a year for seven straight years, a run last seen in the 1990s, but the pace of hiring has slowed, the recovery remains uneven and wages continue to lag behind growth.

Analysts had expected the US to add 180,000 jobs over the month. The Labor Department also cut its hiring figures for October and November with a net downward revision of 9,000 jobs.

On Wednesday ADP, the US’s largest payroll processor, said private employers had added 250,000 jobs over December. Anticipation of a more positive government jobs report had already driven stock markets to record highs.

Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics, which helps compile the report, said, “The job market ended the year strongly. Robust Christmas sales prompted retailers and delivery services to add to their payrolls. The tight labor market will get even tighter, raising the specter that it will overheat.”

The news from ADP sent stock markets soaring with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing above 25,000 for the first time. The Dow rose by more than 25% last year, driven up by low interest rates, expectation of tax cuts and a rebounding global economy.