STORY: A jump in the workforce and easing wage growth suggests the U.S. job market is starting to move the way the Federal Reserve has hoped it will, to bring the supply and demand for workers into better balance and help in its battle against inflation.
After a year in which many basic metrics of the jobs market stalled at levels the U.S. central bank feels are inconsistent with stable prices, employment data for December published on Friday brought a hint of relief.
Nearly 165 million people were either in jobs or looking for them last month, a record high that showed a long-hoped-for improvement in labor supply. U.S. firms added 223,000 payroll jobs to cap a year in which 4.5 million people were hired, a total exceeded in the post-World War Two era only by 2021's 6.7 million.
At the same time, hourly wages - the price of labor - grew at the slowest annual pace in 16 months and has dropped by a full percentage point since the end of the first quarter of 2022. Weekly average earnings gained 3.1%, the slowest pace since May 2021.