Jan. 10 (UPI) -- The U.S. economy added 145,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department said in its monthly update Friday -- a figure that fell short of most analysts' projections.
The department said the unemployment rate remained at 3.5 percent, or 5.8 million persons, which is the lowest level in 50 years.
The gain of 145,000 jobs was led by growth in the retail (41,000 jobs) and healthcare (28,000) sectors, the department's report said. The leisure and hospitality industry added about 40,000 positions and construction about 20,000.
Friday's report cited a decline last month of 8,000 mining jobs, wrapping an overall decline of 24,000 positions for the industry in 2019 -- after a growth of more than 60,000 the year before. Losses were also seen in the transportation and manufacturing industries.
Analysts had expected a growth of 160,000 new jobs for December and a steady unemployment rate.
December's expansion, while short of expectations, reflects a strong finish to 2019. Experts say about 100,000 new jobs per month are needed to keep pace with growth in the working-age population.
The figure for last month is a substantial step down from the addition of 256,000 jobs in November, which the department revised down by 10,000 on Friday. It also updated October's expansion with 4,000 fewer jobs.
"With these revisions, employment gains in October and November combined were 14,000 lower than previously reported," the report said.
Experts say November's figure, however, was padded by the return of General Motors workers from a 40-day strike. But even excluding those 41,000 GM jobs, the underlying job growth for November was above the one-year trend.
ADP and Moody's Analytics, which typically reports U.S. job gains two days before the government does, said Wednesday the domestic economy added 202,000 jobs in December. As further evidenced by Friday's report, there have been substantial discrepancies between ADP-Moody's and government figures this year.
The Labor Department said hourly wages in December rose by 3 cents, to an average of $28.32. For 2019, the average hourly wage grew by 2.9 percent.