December capped a year of strong job growth as employers added 312,000 positions, beating expectations for year-end hiring by a wide margin. In total, more than 2.6 million new jobs were created in 2018, compared to about 2.2 million the year before.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the following sectors created the most jobs last month:

  • Education and health services: 82,000 jobs added
  • Leisure and hospitality: 55,000 jobs added
  • Professional and business services: 43,000 jobs added
  • Construction: 38,000 jobs added
  • Manufacturing: 32,000 jobs added

Unemployment edges up to 3.9 percent

The national unemployment rate ticked up to 3.9 percent in December, from 3.7 percent the previous month. 

The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers who are 25 or older decreased slightly to 2.1 percent. In November, the unemployment rate for these highly sought-after workers was 2.2 percent. 

What employers need to know

Here’s an important question to consider now that the new year has arrived: How able is your company to compete for top talent in 2019? Yes, competition has been fierce for skilled talent — and it remains so. But there may be other factors affecting your firm’s hiring efforts.

Common challenges include: 

  • Failing to offer a compensation package that is competitive enough
  • Overlooking the importance of talking up the unique aspects of your organizational culture, which can often be a make-or-break factor in hiring
  • A hiring process that is too long and complicated
  • Job postings that are bland and boring — or overly specific (thus potentially deterring candidates who meet the core requirements from applying)

Many in-demand professionals are beginning to look for new jobs right now — energized by the start of a new year. Don’t miss this opportunity to show them why your company could be exactly what they’re searching for. You also may want to consider tapping a reputable staffing firm whose recruiting specialists can help you cover more ground and move fast to engage top candidates.

What job seekers need to know

The start of a new year is a time filled with promise. So, it’s not surprising that many professionals see January as an ideal month for launching a new job search. This can be a good time to enter the market, as many employers have fresh hiring budgets and new initiatives waiting to be staffed. 

However, despite the competition for skilled candidates, most businesses are still very selective when hiring. Ensuring that your job application materials clearly spell out the value you can bring to a potential employer can help you catch the attention of hiring managers. 

First, your resume must be up to date. It should reflect your most recent achievements and highlight your current skills and experience. And when applying for a position, take care to adjust the wording of your resume for that specific opening. Pull relevant phrases and keywords from the job posting so hiring managers can easily see you have the right qualifications. 

Take the same thoughtful approach with your cover letter, when you have the option to provide one. Many executives consider cover letters a valuable tool when evaluating job candidates. In short, a standout cover letter could be what prompts your target employer to look more closely at that resume you worked so hard to refine. Together, your cover letter and resume can do the hard work of earning you an interview — and an opportunity to win that new job you’re aiming for in 2019.

Read the infographic text.

Monthly Jobs Summary: December 2018



312,000 JOBS ADDED*




Unemployment RateUnemployment Rate for College Grads
JAN’18 4.1%2.2%
FEB’18 4.1% 2.2%
MAR’18 4.0%2.2%
MAY’18 3.8% 2.0%
JUN’18 4.0% 2.4%
JUL’183.9% 2.3%
AUG’18 3.8%2.0%
OCT’18 3.8%2.0%
NOV’18 3.7% 2.2%
DEC’18 3.9% 2.1%

*Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

**College-degreed workers 25 and older

See what these results mean for job seekers and employers at


35% of workers wouldn’t accept a job offer if the role was a perfect fit but the corporate culture wasn’t.

Source: Robert Half survey of more than 1,000 U.S. workers

© 2018 Robert Half. An Equal Opportunity Employer M/F/Disability/Veterans.