Payroll employment increased by 108,000 in December, and the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.9 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics of the U.S. Department of Labor reported today.
The December increase in payroll employment followed a gain of 305,000 in November, revised upward from 215,000.
The unemployment rate has ranged from 4.9 to 5.1 percent since March.
In December, 18.2 percent of the unemployed had been without a job for 27 weeks or longer, compared with 20.4 percent a year earlier.
Information gathered in December showed that about 1.1 million persons age 16 and over had evacuated from where they were living in August due to Hurricane Katrina. The unemployment rate for persons identified as evacuees was 12.4 percent; it was much higher for evacuees who had not returned home (20.7 percent) than for those who had returned (5.6 percent).
Meanwhile, average hourly earnings of production or nonsupervisory workers on private payrolls increased by 5 cents in December to $16.34, seasonally adjusted. Average weekly earnings were little changed over the month at $550.66. Over the year, both average hourly and weekly earnings increased by 3.1 percent.