In our preview of the December payrolls report, we said that the big risk is a big upside surprise in the form of "good news being bad news", and sure enough, and that's precisely what happened when the BLS reported that in December the US added a whopping 312K jobs, far above the 184K expected, and the highest since February 2018. The total number of payrolls surged above 150 million for the first time ever, to 150.263 million to be specific.
Meanwhile, November's print was revised up from +155,000 to +176,000, and the change for October was revised up from +237,000 to +274,000. With these revisions, employment gains in October and November combined were 58,000 more than
previously reported. After revisions, job gains have averaged 254,000 per month over the last 3 months.
In case there was any confusion, this was a blowout number, as Bloomberg economist Tim Mahedy writes:
This is the strongest employment report of this economic cycle -- hands down. While we've seen greater job gains in some months, the plus-300,000 number along with another increase in average hourly earnings clearly signals that the economic expansion ended 2018 on strong footing. Perhaps most surprising was the two-tenths rise in the unemployment rate due to an increase in participation. It's one month of data, but talk of the Fed cutting rates in the near future should be off the table for now.