(CN) – Beating expectations and easing fears of a recession, American employers added 312,000 jobs in December amid a struggling stock market, partial government shutdown and economic slowdown worldwide.
Analysts had predicted only about 180,000 job gains. And while the unemployment rate rose from a 50-year low of 3.7 percent of 3.9 percent, the increase is due to more people actively looking for work – another indication of growth.
The average hourly pay rate is also up 3.2 percent compared to a year ago, the Labor Department announced Friday.
Health care, food services, construction and manufacturing added the most jobs last month.
The better-than-expected job gains came during the worst December for trading since 1931. On Thursday, U.S. stocks plummeted after Apple announced it will miss its quarterly sales forecast because of weakening growth and the U.S. trade dispute with China.
Overall economic growth is still expected to slow down in 2019, and Friday’s jobs announcement comes two weeks into a partial government shutdown over President Donald Trump’s demand for funding for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.
Still, stocks rallied Friday morning after the jobs numbers were released. The Dow Jones Industrial Average surged more than 500 points.
Investors are also hopefully the U.S. and China will bring an end to the months-long trade standoff between the world’s two largest economic superpowers. Negotiations are expected to be held next week.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.