With unemployment continuing to fall to record-breaking numbers and small business optimism at an eight-year high, it’s hard not to feel optimistic about 2015.
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 252,000 jobs in December and the unemployment rate dropped to 5.6 percent. In total, the United States added 2.952 million new jobs in 2014, the highest number of new jobs since 1999, and unemployment is at its lowest rate since June 2008.
In 2014, job growth averaged 246,000 per month, compared with average monthly gains of 194,000 in the previous year.
The number of long-term unemployed persons was unchanged in December, at 2.8 million, and accounted for 31.9 percent of the unemployed, but the number of long-term unemployed has decreased by 1.1 million over the last year. The number of persons employed part time for economic reasons was little changed at 6.8 million.
There were 2.3 million persons marginally attached to the labor force in December, little changed over the past year. Among the marginally attached, there were 740,000 discouraged workers this month, which has declined by 177,000 from a year earlier.
Discouraged persons are those who are not currently looking for work because they believe no available jobs exist for them. The remaining 1.5 million persons marginally attached had not searched for work for reasons such as school attendance or family responsibilities.
Small business optimism
The NFIB Small Business Optimism survey rose 2.3 points in December to 100.4, which is the highest level the index has seen since October 2006. Eight of the 10 indices saw positive gains this month.
The strongest gains came from those who expect real sales to be higher, which rose 6 points to 20 percent. Those who believe now is a good time to expand increased 5 points to 16 percent.
Plans to increase employment rose 4 points to 15 percent, one of the strongest readings for this index in the history of the NFIB survey and consistent with the stronger GDP growth reported in the second half of 2014.
Plans to increase capital outlays also rose 4 points to 29 percent. The only decrease this month was among those who expected the economy to improve, down 1 point to 12 percent. Current inventory was unchanged this month at minus 3 percent.
Fifty-four percent reported hiring or trying to hire, but 43 percent reported few to no qualified applicants available for the open positions. Those who reported using temporary workers was down 1 point at 14 percent and those who reported job openings they could not fill in the current period was up 1 point at 25 percent.
There were 5.0 million job openings on the last business day of November at a rate of 3.4 percent. This was little changed from the 4.8 million jobs in October but has increased over the 12 months ending in November for total nonfarm, total private and government.
Hires were little changed at 5.0 million but increased year-over-year for total nonfarm and total private. Total separations declined in November, now at 4.6 million and at a rate of 3.3 percent.
Within separations, the quits rate was unchanged at 2.6 million but increased over the 12 months ending in November for total nonfarm and total private.