(CNSNews.com) - The nation added 157,000 new jobs in December, below what economists expected, the Labor Department reported Friday.
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said many of those jobs were in higher paying fields such as "education and health services and professional and business services."
"This emphasizes the importance of the President's economic programs and job training initiatives," said Chao in a statement.
"The unemployment rate in December remained unchanged at 5.4 percent and more than 2.5 million jobs have been created in the last 16 months. The level of payroll employment is now 114,000 higher than in January 2001 and the annual average for 2004 shows that more Americans are working than ever before," she added.
The job numbers for last month follows upwardly revised totals of 137,000 jobs in November and 312,000 in October. They were previously reported as 112,000 and 303,000 respectively, Reuters reports.
"The revision washed out the slight negative surprise," Reuters quoted Greg Anderson, a currency strategist with ABN AMRO in Chicago, as saying.
"Overall, compared to the previous year, it looks great, it just keeps going stronger and stronger and I expect that to be the case this year," Reuters quoted economist Kurt Karl of Swiss Re in New York as saying.
"People were looking at 150,000 jobs per month as a good pace of job creation for the economy," Reuters quoted Lisa Finstrom, a currency analyst with Citibank in New York, as saying. "We're sticking near that area. So the Fed continues tightening."
The Federal Reserve Board meets again on Feb. 1-2 and is expected to raise rates a quarter percentage point. Analysts expect the Fed to continue raising rates at subsequent meetings through the first half of the New Year.
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.