Job growth way below estimates in December; unemployment at 6.7 percent

Applicants wait to meet potential employers at a Manhattan job fair in New York City.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the economy added 74,000 jobs last month, falling way below analyst expectations. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.7  percent, largely due to the shrinking size of the labor force.

Economists had predicted that around 200,000 jobs would be added to the economy in December and that the unemployment rate would hold steady at 7 percent.

Marketplace regularly checks in with people at the sharp end of the labor market. Last summer, we met Lisa Darcy who lives in Florida's Tampa Bay Area. Five months later, we still find her stuck juggling more than one jobs. She's also decided to make a risky trade-off when it comes her hourly wage.

Darcy, age 48, has two jobs, one working in the management office at a mall, and the other at a large theater complex. Last time Marketplace spoke to Darcy, she was working in the theater. But she has since moved positions and chosen to take a pay cut.

"I actually had to make a strategic decision to switch departments, and in order to do so, I had to take an 18 percent hourly wage cut," Darcy says. "I did that for several reasons. One is that I get a lot more reliable hours and a reliable schedule now than I did before. And, the second reason is I am learning a software program that really is ubiquitous in the industry, and I believe it will make me more marketable."

Last time we spoke with Darcy, she was working two jobs and looking to find a third. These days, things have stabilized with just two jobs. But when it comes to just having a single job, Darcy doesn't get her hopes up.

"I know a few people who just got full time jobs, and they're all so far below the pay rate of where I would need to be that I can't seeing myself do that in Tampa Bay," she says.

While the numbers indicate that things are improving and economists are more optimistic than they have been in a while, Darcy says that around her, nothing really says the economy is on the rebound.

"I'm not necessarily seeing it on the ground here," she says of improved economic conditions. "It was a bad retail season at the mall that I work at, I know, and the discussions were that it's pretty much company-wide that people struggled this season, and I think that's going to continue for a while longer."

About the author

David Brancaccio is the host of Marketplace Morning Report. Follow David on Twitter @DavidBrancaccio

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