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Wages Flat In Otherwise Strong December Jobs Report

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

OK. There is turmoil in the world markets and, of course, China. But when it comes to job growth in the U.S., there is good news this morning. Data released today show the U.S. economy added 292,000 jobs last months. That's right, nearly 300,000, while the unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent.

As NPR's John Ydstie reports, the strength in the job market was surprising to many.

JOHN YDSTIE, BYLINE: Slowing growth in China and weak December data in U.S. manufacturing and exports had lots of economists revising down their forecasts for U.S. growth. And survey showed they were expecting just over 200,000 new jobs to be added in December. Instead, the economy generated nearly 300,000.

Economist Rob Martin of Barclays Investment Bank says that reaffirms his belief that the U.S. economy remains strong.

ROB MARTIN: We feel confident that the economy is in a great spot and is very likely to withstand any kind of headwinds coming from abroad, and kind of headwinds coming from turbulence in the Chinese economy.

YDSTIE: Job growth was solid across industries, except for mining, which continued to suffer from layoffs in the oil and gas sectors. Even manufacturing added 8,000 jobs. But wage growth continued to be weak. It was essentially flat in December. Martin thinks wages will begin to move up faster in 2016.

MARTIN: We think we are at the point in the cycle where we should start seeing some real boost to wages. These job numbers are very consistent with that expectation.

YDSTIE: Martin says this strong jobs report is also likely to keep the Federal Reserve on track to raise its benchmark interest rate to just over 1 percent by the end of this year. He expects that will come in four increments, starting at the Fed's March meeting.

YDSTIE: John Ydstie, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.