STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The business news starts with a look at the job market.
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INSKEEP: This morning the Labor Department will release its unemployment numbers for the month of December. Economists expect to see job growth cooling off a bit, but the unemployment rate should hold steady around 4.5 percent. Analysts predict an increase of about 115,000 jobs in December. And if business payrolls do increase by that much, it would signal that the jobs market remains relatively strong, despite the slide in the housing industry.
NPR's Frank Langfitt reports.
FRANK LANGFITT: In recent months, people have worried that the slowdown in the real estate market might tip the economy toward recession. So far, that hasn't happened. For instance, in the labor market, a recent loss of construction jobs was offset by growth in the nation's huge service sector. Bruce Kasman is head of economic research at JPMorgan Chase. He thinks that trend will continue when the government releases figures for December.
Mr. BRUCE KASMAN (Head of Economic Research, JPMorgan Chase): Both manufacturing and construction industries are weak. We think those two sectors together are probably going to be contracting jobs at a pace of 30 to 50,000 range on the month. We think that there's a solid base of growth in a wide range of services industries, including healthcare, education, the leisure and hospitality sector.
LANGFITT: Kasman says the decreasing fuel prices have also bolstered jobs.
Mr. KASMAN: Energy prices clearly were a drag on spending earlier last year. But more recently, the fall in gasoline prices and crude oil prices are actually putting a significant lift to household real purchasing power.
LANGFITT: Of course, predicting employment growth from month to month is tricky business, especially in a country with 130 million jobs.
Frank Langfitt, NPR News, Washington.
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