Nonfarm payrolls rose 223,000 in December, as strong jobs market beats expectations

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Wage growth slowed in December but was still better than expected, a sign that the labor market remains strong even as the Federal Reserve tries to slow economic growth.

Nonfarm payrolls increased by 223,000 for the month, above the Dow Jones estimate for 200,000, and the unemployment rate fell to 3.5%, 0.2 percentage points lower than expected. The job growth marked a slight decrease from the 256,000 gain in November, which was revised down by 7,000 from the initial estimate.

Wage growth was lower than expected in a sign that inflationary pressures may be weakening. Average hourly earnings rose 0.3% for the month and increased 4.6% from a year ago. The respective estimates were for growth of 0.4% and 5%.

By sector, recreation and hospitality led the way with 67,000 additional jobs, followed by health care (55,000), construction (28,000) and social assistance (20,000).

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