The US unemployment rate rose to 3.9 percent in December 2018 from a 49-year low of 3.7 percent in the previous month, and above market expectations of 3.7 percent. It was the highest jobless rate since July, as the number of unemployed persons increased by 276 thousand to 6.3 million and employment advanced by 142 thousand to 156.9 million.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (3.6 percent) and Blacks (6.6 percent) increased in December. The jobless rates for adult women (3.5 percent), teenagers (12.5 percent), Whites (3.4 percent), Asians (3.3 percent), and Hispanics (4.4 percent) recorded little or no change over the month.
Among the unemployed, the number of job leavers went up by 142,000 in December to 839,000. Job leavers are unemployed persons who quit or otherwise voluntarily left their previous job and immediately began looking for new employment.
In December, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 1.3 million and accounted for 20.5 percent of the unemployed. Over the year, the number of long-term unemployed was down by 205,000.
The labor force participation rate, at 63.1 percent, changed little in December, and the employment-population ratio was 60.6 percent for the third consecutive month. Both measures were up by 0.4 percentage point over the year.
The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers), at 4.7 million, changed little in December but was down by 329,000 over the year. These individuals, who would have preferred full-time employment, were working part time because their hours had been reduced or they were unable to find full-time jobs.
In December, 1.6 million persons were marginally attached to the labor force, little changed from a year earlier. (Data are not seasonally adjusted.) These individuals were not in the labor force, wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the survey.