Ball State University economist Mike Hicks says the supply of available workers will continue to hold up potential job growth. The national unemployment rate held at 4.1 percent in December, driven by a "surge" in manufacturing jobs, and hourly earnings increased 9 cents.
Hicks says "yes, the year ended on a strong jobs report, but with 148,000 new jobs total employment growth was not as robust as in recent months. This is not surprising given that the labor force rose by only 60,000 workers. At the current level of unemployment, job growth is likely to continue to be constrained by the supply of available workers. Though the median period of unemployment is shortening, there is a small but persistent share of workers who are unemployed for more than six months. This implies that there remain pockets of much worse labor market performance."
Hicks, who serves as director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research, adds wages rose faster than inflation in 2017.