The U.S. Department of Labor announced today that the U.S. economy added 252,000 jobs in December, officially making 2014 the strongest year for job growth in 15 years. The U.S. unemployment rate also fell to 5.6 percent in December, a six-year low.
The Labor Department says that hiring is at "levels we haven't seen since before the Great Recession." The Department reports that December job gains occurred in professional and business services, construction, food services and drinking places, health care, and manufacturing.
"The U.S. economy closed out the year on a continued hot streak – 252,000 new jobs, with the unemployment rate falling to 5.6 percent,"U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas E. Perez said in a statement. "December was the 58th consecutive month of private sector job growth, to the tune of 11.2 million jobs. Average unemployment for 2014 was down 1.2 percentage points from 2013, the largest decrease since 1984."
In total, the Labor Department says that the economy gained nearly 3 million jobs in 2014. The current 58 month streak of private sector job growth is the longest on record.
The unemployment rate is now close to the 5.2 percent to 5.5 percent range that the Federal Reserve considers consistent with a healthy U.S. economy. 2014 also saw consumer confidence reach a seven-year high. Additionally, gasoline prices have fallen steeply, which will give consumers a financial boost in the coming months.
"Looking ahead to 2015 with great confidence, we'll be building on the momentum of the nation's remarkable economic performance over the last year," Secretary Perez continued. "There is plenty of unfinished business in this recovery. We need to do more to achieve meaningful wage growth, because too many middle-class families are still working harder and falling further behind. We need to do more to ensure that the economy works for everyone, to create broadly-shared prosperity."