Jan. 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. economy added more than 300,000 new jobs in the final month of 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics said in its jobs report Friday.
The economy added 312,000 jobs in December, the report said. The figure shattered expectations, as most experts projected just 181,000 new jobs.
The BLS said the healthcare sector added 50,000 jobs in December and 346,000 jobs for the year, compared to just 284,000 new jobs in 2017. Restaurants and bars added 41,000 new jobs and 235,000 jobs for all of 2018.
The positive jobs report was welcome news to Americans concerned about more interest rate hikes, the Trump administration's trade war with China, the government shutdown and a slowing global economy.
The BLS said average hourly earnings increased in December by 11 cents, to $27.48 per hour -- up 3.2 percent to a new nine-year high.
The unemployment rate, which has remained at historic lows, inched up slightly last month -- the greatest increases were seen among male workers.
Overall unemployment increased by 0.2 points to 3.9 percent in December, with 419,000 Americans out of work. The number of unemployed increased by 276,000 to 6.3 million. That's still lower than it was a year ago, when the jobless rate was 4.1 percent and there were 6.6 million unemployed workers.
Unemployment dipped as low as 3.7 percent in 2018, the lowest mark since 1969. Potential workers are considered unemployed if they've looked for work in the last four weeks.