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Although the longest nationwide strike against General Motors in nearly 50 years ended in October, those workers returning to their jobs may have skewed the numbers in November’s federal jobs report, which makes the December report released Friday especially important in gauging the economy’s performance, says a Ball State University economist.

The Labor Department announced Friday that 145,000 jobs were added in December, which is short of the gain of about 160,000 expected by most analysts.

“The November jobs report saw employment grow by 145,000, with downward revisions for the past two months accounting for 14,000 fewer jobs,” said Michael Hicks, the director of Ball State’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

“This alone is a sign of slowing job growth, but the composition of new jobs also signaled further weakening,” he added. “Jobs in natural resource extraction continued their decline, and are often viewed as a leading economic indicator. Factory jobs declined by 12,000 workers, which is the worst non-strike slump in almost four years.”

Hicks also noted that transportation and logistics employment also dropped by 10,400 over the last month of 2019, another sign of a slowing economy, which is consistent with most recent forecasts, including those released by CBER at Ball State.

“Overall, this jobs report is consistent with an economy growing below 2 percent, accompanied by weakening wage gains,” he said. “The good news is that employment options remain available, and the unemployment rate is steady. Growth in the labor force is exceeding new job creation.”

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