What to expect from today's jobs report, the final word on the 2023 labor market

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When the final jobs report for 2023 is released at 8:30 a.m. ET, economists forecast the U.S. economy added 160,000 positions in December, an average of 232,000 jobs for the month through November and about 2.78 million jobs for the year.

While that's far below the 4.79 million jobs gained in 2022 — the second-highest annual total since 1939 — 2023 will be another year full of twists, turns and historic gains in the labor market.

In January last year, The unemployment rate fell to 3.4%A level not seen since Neil Armstrong set foot on the moon in 1969.

Unemployment rate for black workers in April 2023 reached a record of 4.7%.

Then in June, the labor force participation rate for women in their prime working age (ages 25-54). An all-time high of 77.8%. The overall labor force participation rate was 62.8% in November, the highest since the start of the pandemic.

“It's been a good year for black people; It's been a good year for black women; It's been a good year for women in general,” former Labor Department official Jane Oates, president of the employment education nonprofit WorkingNation, told CNN in an interview.

2023 was also the year of the workforce: the pandemic prompted many to rethink their career path and work-life balance, and the ensuing tight labor market emboldened them to seek other opportunities. With historically low unemployment and historically high employment opportunities, workers may demand better wages, improved health care or quality of life improvements.

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In 2023, millions of workers went on strike Writers to do actors to do Nurses to do Auto workers. Even President Joe Biden Appeared on the picket lineHistorical Highlights of the United Auto Workers strike Against General Motors, Ford and Stellandis.

The Writers Guild of AmericaWith over 11,000 members, and SAG-AFTRARepresenting 160,000 film and television actors, it went on strike in 2023, halting filming. This is the first time since 1960 that both unions have gone on strike at the same time.

Database of US layoffs by Cornell University School of Industrial and Labor Relations It shows that 70 strikes by 100 or more workers lasted more than a week. This is a 59% increase over the previous year.

A step CNN's analysis found that nearly 900,000 unionized workers won immediate pay raises of 10% or more in the past year.

The latest initial weekly jobless claims released Thursday morning showed 202,000 people filed for unemployment insurance benefits for the first time in the week ended Dec. 30, below estimates of 216,000. Continuous claims were at 1.855 million, down from 1.875 million the previous week and below 1.881 million.

ADP reported Thursday that private payrolls rose 164,000 in December, a big improvement from November's downwardly revised 101,000 and better than consensus estimates of 125,000, according to FactSet. Its total hiring is often viewed as a proxy for Friday's Bureau of Labor Statistics headline number.

“We are returning to a labor market that is more consistent with pre-pandemic hiring,” said Nela Richardson, ADP's chief economist.

The Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, also known as the JOLTS report, revealed on Wednesday that job openings in November fell to their lowest level since March 2021. There were 8.79 million seasonally adjusted jobs in November. That was down from an upwardly revised 8.85 million in October and in line with economists' expectations of 8.77 million openings, according to FactSet.

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But U.S.-based employers announced just 34,817 job cuts in December, according to monthly data released Thursday morning by outsourcing firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. That's down 24% from November and the second-lowest monthly total of the year. Job cuts are also down 20% from the previous year.

“Firms are posting fewer job openings, but they're not laying off workers, and that keeps economic growth in the plus column in the new year,” FwdBonds economist Christopher Rupkey wrote in a note Thursday. “It's not too hot and not too cold in the labor market right now. We'll leave it to Fed officials to decide whether the labor market 'rebalances' enough to reduce inflation further.”

The forecast for 160,000 jobs added in the final month of 2023 will be lower 199,000 net profit for NovemberAccording to FactSet consensus estimates, the number of auto workers and actors who walked away from the strike.

Economists expect the unemployment rate to rise to 3.8% from 3.7% in the previous month.

Any net gain in jobs in December 2023 would bring this current labor market expansion to 36 months, the fifth-longest on record.

“When trying to settle the debate about whether or not the economy is headed for a recession in the coming year, there can be no more important economic news on the planet than the payrolls report,” Roepke told CNN. In an interview last week. “We don't have a recession without job losses, so we're going to be tuning in to see whether or not the labor market has lost any momentum.”

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A slow but steady softening of the labor market will underscore the prospects for a soft landing by the Federal Reserve — a slowdown in economic activity that lowers inflation but avoids raising unemployment. Lower inflation will signal to the central bank that it may start cutting interest rates after 11 punitive rate hikes in the past two years.

The latest economic forecasts from central bank officials, released in December, show they expect to cut rates for the first time this year launched their historic anti-inflation campaign In March 2022.

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Wall Street is eager for cuts, with some investors pricing in the first cut as early as March. But some central bank officials have tempered that optimism, stressing that geopolitical tensions and risks, including the U.S. presidential election, could undermine inflation's defeat.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell has long warned that the labor market needs to cool off from its fast pace and have a better alignment between the number of jobs available and the number of people who want them.

But last month, Powell acknowledged that the U.S. job market had reached a “better balance.”

On January 31, two days before the release of the first jobs report of 2024, the central bank's monetary policymaking committee announces its next decision.

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