Data releases from Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis have been suspended during the shutdown, which started on December 22 amid demands by Trump for $5 billion (£3.9 billion) in funding for a wall on the U.S. -Mexico border.
"It appears that higher wages are the reason why people are returning to the active labor force in large numbers", said Paul Ashworth, chief US Economist with Capital Economics. "That's a good thing". For the past year, the American economy was averaging about 209,000 new jobs each month.
Much of this surprising uptick in new jobs has come from medium-sized businesses, according to ADP's National Employment Report for December. It is expected to slow to around 150,000 per month this year as workers become more scarce. There were some exceptions, including retail and food services.
Economists had expected the pace of hiring would slow in December, as employers had trouble finding the workers they needed. The year-over-year increase is tied with October for the best since April 2009.
Other indicators pointed to a slowdown in the manufacturing sector. Instead, the market saw a substantial addition of jobs in December. Builders added 38,000 construction jobs, while manufacturers increased their payrolls by 32,000 workers. November's figure was revised up to 176,000 jobs from 155,000, while October's gains grew to 274,000 from 237,000. If oil prices remain low, we expect hiring and investment in mining to stall. "Expectations regarding job prospects and business conditions weakened, but still suggest that the economy will continue expanding at a solid pace in the short-term", said Lynn Franco, a senior director at the Conference Board.
Statistics Canada's Labour Force Survey report for December speaks of total jobs north of the border creeping forward by only +9,000. The Fed last month forecast two rate hikes this year and signaled its tightening cycle is nearing an end in the face of financial market volatility and slowing global growth.
Average hourly pay improved 3.2 percent from a year ago.
"The labor market is very strong even though the economy appears to be slowing", said Eric Winograd, senior US economist at the investment management firm AllianceBernstein. But inflation ticked up in 2018, offsetting some of that bump. That could mean the January jobs report released next month would show a drop rather than a gain in employment. Restaurants and bars added 41,000 jobs. The health and education sector added 82,000 positions. "That's a deal we'll take if more people are participating in the workforce".
A year earlier, the jobless rate was 4.1 per cent and the number of unemployed persons was 6.6 million, as against 6.3 million in 2018. The enormous retail trade industry, in particular, has suffered.
The markets have been a mess, but companies are still hiring - a lot.
And businesses are still searching for more workers.
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 312,000 jobs last month, the largest gain since February, as employment at construction sites snapped back after being restrained by unseasonably cold temperatures in November.
Regionally, the lowest jobless rates in the country now are in British Columbia (4.4%), Ontario (5.4%) and Quebec (5.5%).
"Employers were stretching to meet new people and invest in people", Wright said.