The Labor Department reported little change in the unemployment or employment rates in December, as job growth slowed slightly to 156,000 in the month. The unemployment rate edged up from 4.6 percent to 4.7 percent, but this is well within the margin of error of the survey. The overall employment-to-population ratio (EPOP) remained unchanged at 59.7 percent. The same is true for the EPOP for prime-age workers, which remained at 78.2 percent for the third consecutive month. This is more than 2 full percentage points below the pre-recession peak and almost four percentage points below the 2000 peak.
Some good news in the report is that involuntary part-time employment continues to edge down, while more people are choosing to work part-time. The number of people working part-time, for economic reasons, fell slightly to 5,600,000 in December. It is now down by almost 2.2 million from December of 2013, before the key provisions of the Affordable Care Act took effect. By contrast, the number of people choosing to work part-time has continued to rise, presumably because they no longer need to get insurance from their employer. It now stands at 21,250,000, more than 2.4 million above its pre-recession level.
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