Job Market Update: December 2016

Job growth was again encouraging in December, with 156,000 jobs added. Unemployment remained largely unchanged, coming in a tenth of a percent higher than November at 4.7%.


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Job Market Update

This image and all data supporting this monthly blog post is provided by the BLS Regional and State Unemployment Report and the BLS Employment Situation Summary.

Just as it has throughout the fourth quarter of the year, health care continued to be a major driver of job growth. Specifically, ambulatory health care services added 30,000 jobs. In addition, social assistance was another strong industry for growth in December.

Average hourly earnings for all employees increased to $26.00, a 10 cent rise over November. This is a positive sign after average earnings dipped by 2 cents in November.

More good news, as the revised job growth numbers from October and November show an increased number of jobs. While October was revised down to 135,000 from 142,000, November was revised from 178,000 up to 204,000. Overall, there were 19,000 more jobs added in October and November than initially believed and the 3-month average of job gains is now 165,000 per month.

In Your Industry

Job growth closed the book on 2016 positively with 156,000 employment opportunities added in December, averaging 180,000 jobs added per month throughout the year totaling a gain of 2,157,000 in 2016. The sectors experiencing the most growth in December included education and health services, leisure and hospitality and trade, transportation and utilities.

Construction lost 3,000 jobs in December, specifically losing 8,900 in heavy and civil engineering construction and 3,200 in the construction of buildings. That being said, 11,700 residential specialty trade contractors were hired last month continuing a trend we’ve seen throughout 2016.

Manufacturing had gains in December countering an overall negative trend throughout the year, adding 17,000 jobs largely in durable goods. The largest gain was 5,800 jobs in fabricated metal products, followed by motor vehicles and parts (+2,900) and furniture and related products (+2,300). The most substantial subsector loss in December was 900 jobs in computers and electronic products. Since a peak last January, overall manufacturing jobs have declined by 63,000.

Retail trade had 6,300 jobs added in December with large swings between subsectors. While 10,300 jobs were added for clothing and clothing accessory stores, general merchandise stores totaled a loss of 23,900 jobs. Other small gains included non-store retailers (+3,800) and motor vehicle and parts dealers (+2,700), resulting in the relatively insignificant change in total.

Transportation and warehousing added 14,700 jobs in December. The top contributor to growth were couriers and messengers (+11,700) followed by support activities for transportation (+3,800). The only substantial loss in this sector were 4,700 jobs for transit and ground passenger transportation. Total gains in 2016 amounted to 62,000, down from a gain of 110,000 in 2015.

Professional and business services grew little in December (+15,000) compared to much larger gains in November (+65,000) and October (+43,000). Gains in services to buildings and dwellings (+10,600) and professional and technical services (+6,600) were offset by losses in temporary help services (-15,500) and accounting and bookkeeping services (-13,200).

Education and health services experienced substantial growth in December adding 70,000 jobs, largely supported by gains in health care and social assistance (+63,300) and individual and family services (+21,100). The only subsector to experience losses in December was other residential care facilities (-1,200), vocational rehabilitation services (-1,000) and child day care services (-1,200).

Hospitals added 10,700 jobs in December.

Leisure and hospitality finished an upward trend throughout the year with an addition of 24,000 jobs in December, largely due to an increase in accommodation and food services (+34,500) only partially offset by loss in amusements, gambling & recreation (-11,500).

Temporary help services were down by 15,500 positions.

In Your Region

Unemployment rates were significantly lower for November in 18 states and steady in 32 states and the District of Columbia. There were 9 states of notable jobless rate decreases from the previous year while 2 states had increases. The other 29 states and the District of Columbia had no significant changes.

In November, the West was the only region to have an unemployment rate significantly different from the October 2016, U.S. rate of 4.6 percent, at 5.0 percent. For an over-the-year rate change, it was the West and the South that saw significant changes with a decrease by 0.5 and 0.2 points, respectively.

The lowest unemployment rates for the nine geographic regions were found in New England at 3.6 percent, followed by the West North Central at 4.1 percent. South Dakota and New Hampshire continue to have the lowest unemployment rates in November at 2.7 percent each. Alaska and New Mexico held the highest jobless rates at 6.8 percent and 6.7 percent, respectively.

The highest unemployment rates were found in the East South Central, Middle Atlantic, and pacific at 5.3 percent each. The only notable over-the-year increase of rates was in the Middle Atlantic region with a 0.4 percentage point.

Check out these key regional highlights from BLS “Regional and State Employment and Unemployment – November 2016” report:


The Northeast’s unemployment rate saw a decrease of .2 percentage points from October 2016, to 4.8 percent in November. New England particularly improved, moving from 3.9 to 3.6 percent. New Bedford, Massachusetts, had the largest over-the-year unemployment rate decrease from 6.5 to 3.7 percent. The largest over-the-year increase happened in the Middle Atlantic, with Eerie, Pennsylvania from 4.7 to 5.9 percent.

Massachusetts (2.9 percent) and New Hampshire (2.7 percent) have extremely low unemployment rates. To counter this, New York (5.1 percent), Rhode Island (5.3 percent) and New York (5.1 percent) are well above the national average.


The Midwest is overall on par with the national average of unemployment at 4.7 percent. But with rates like Illinois at 5.6 percent and Ohio and Michigan both at 4.9 percent, the East North Central is above the national average. The largest over-the-year increase was in Cleveland-Elyria, Ohio, from 3.9 to 4.5 percent.

  • West North Central (4.1 percent)
  • East North Central (5.0 percent)

Most states in West North Central are exceptionally below the national average: Iowa (3.8 percent), Minnesota (3.8 percent), Nebraska (3.4 percent), North Dakota (2.9 percent) and South Dakota (2.7 percent).


The South’s unemployment has remained the same at 4.9 percent. In November, the South Atlantic (4.9 percent), East South Central (5.3 percent) and West South Central (4.8 percent) unemployment rates are above the national average. Arkansas (4.0 percent), Virginia (4.2 percent) and Maryland (4.2 percent) continue to have the lowest unemployment rates of the region.

Below are the states with the lowest and highest unemployment rates in each of this division’s regions:

  • West South Central: Arkansas (4.0 percent) / Louisiana (6.2 percent)
  • East South Central: Kentucky and Tennessee (4.8 percent) / Mississippi (5.7 percent)
  • South Atlantic: Maryland and Virginia (4.2 percent) / West Virginia and District of Columbia (6.0 percent)


The West continues to have the highest unemployment rate of any region in the country at 5.0 percent, though it has declined 2 points since the previous month. Below are the states with the lowest and highest unemployment rates in each of this division’s regions:

  • Pacific: Hawaii (3.0 percent) / Alaska (6.8 percent)
  • Mountain: Utah (3.1 percent) / New Mexico (6.7 percent)

El Centro, California, and Yuma, Arizona, had the highest unemployment rates of the nation at 20.3 percent and 16.7 percent, respectively. Salt Lake City, Utah, had the lowest unemployment rate in November at 2.4 percent.