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US job growth slows for a fifth straight month, but labor market remains strong.

Reuters

What We’re Watching: US jobs report & new China, Afghan energy extraction deal

Jobs report: US labor market remains strong

The Fed’s interest rate hikes, designed to battle inflation, have slowed US job growth for a fifth straight month. The American economy added 223,000 jobs in December, well below last year's peak of 714,000 in February but still above expectations of around 200,000. The December numbers put the monthly average for 2022 at 375,000. A slowdown has been in effect since last August, but the labor market is still hot: 4.5 million jobs were created last year, the second highest since 1940. Such resilience likely means more interest rate hikes are to be expected. Meanwhile, the unemployment rate hit a historic low of 3.5%. The leisure and hospitality industry saw the biggest job gains, followed by healthcare and construction, while retail, manufacturing, transportation, and warehousing saw the least. President Joe Biden said the historic job gains are giving American families more “breathing room” amid the “cost-of-living squeeze.”

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The Graphic Truth: World not yet fully back to work

It’s been almost three years since the COVID pandemic swung a wrecking ball through our societies, our economies, and our workplaces. But even now, with the most acute phase of the crisis behind us, many aspects of life still aren’t back to what they were in the B.C. (Before Coronavirus) era. One great example is the hours worked in our economies. When the pandemic struck, lockdowns and other restrictions caused the number of hours worked on a quarterly basis around the world to plunge by nearly 20% compared to the final quarter of 2019, the baseline for “last moments of pre-pandemic normalcy.” But since then, the world as a whole still hasn’t gotten back to pre-pandemic levels of hours worked — we’re still almost 1.5% below them. Lower-income countries are struggling more than rich ones to get back to where they were, and there is only one region of the world that shows more hours worked now than before the pandemic — can you guess which one it is?

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