The economy was on a roll in December, ending the year with 2.5 million more private sector jobs than it had when last January’s cold winds ushered in the year. ADP, the payroll and HR services firm, says private employers added 241,000 new jobs last month, the fourth consecutive month that ADP’s National Employment Report showed job growth over 200,000.
“The job market continues to power forward,” said Mark Zandi, chief economist of Moody’s Analytics which compiles ADP’s payroll data. “At the current pace of job growth, the economy will be back to full employment by this time next year.”
On Friday, the Labor Department will release the government’s employment report. Economists expect that report to show 240,000 total new jobs; 228,000 are forecast to have come from the private sector. Through November, the Labor Department says 2.5 million public and private jobs were created this year. During that same time the unemployment rate went from 6.7% last December to an expected 5.7% last month.
According to the ADP report, most of the new jobs came in the service sector, with the professional and business category contributing 69,000. That group includes temp and contract labor, one of the fastest growing sectors. Since the beginning of the year through November, the Labor Department calculates temp agencies added 203,000 workers, just over 8% of the total new jobs.
The American Staffing Association’s staffing index hit a record high of 107.54 in mid-December, a rise of 4.2% from the same point in December 2013. The ASA also reported that U.S. staffing companies employed an average of 3.26 million temporary and contract workers per week in the third quarter of 2014, up 6.1% from the same period in 2013.
Temp and contract staffing sales also were up, coming in at an estimated $29.45 billion in the third quarter, 6.2% over the third quarter in 2013.
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“Staffing industry employment has returned to prerecession levels as businesses continue to increase the size of their flexible and permanent workforces in response to sustained increases in demand for their products and services,” said Richard Wahlquist, ASA president and CEO. “And, with 4.8 million job openings in the U.S., we see a lot of opportunity for job seekers with marketable skills.”