WASHINGTON—U.S. employers dramatically stepped up their hiring in December, adding 312,000 jobs in an encouraging display of strength for an economy in the midst of a trade war, slowing global growth and a partial shutdown of the federal government.

The Labor Department says the unemployment rate rose slightly to 3.9 percent, but that reflected a surge in job seekers—a positive for growth.

Average hourly pay improved 3.2 percent from a year ago.

The health care, food services, construction, and manufacturing sectors were the primary contributors to last month’s hiring.

The strong job gains suggest that the tumbling stock market has yet to depress expectations that the economy will expand for a 10th straight year. Still, growth is likely to slow as the stimulus from last year’s tax cuts wane.

Wait, before you go…

If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface.  We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.

Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.

Support Truthdig