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By Jason Stipp and Robert Johnson, CFA | 01-04-2013 08:30 AM

Job Growth Prospects for 2013: Higher, But Not Too High

Following a solid December employment report, average monthly job growth in 2013 could accelerate, but not by much, say Morningstar's Bob Johnson and Vishnu Lekraj.

Jason Stipp: I'm Jason Stipp for Morningstar.

We got the government employment report for December. It showed 155,000 jobs were added to the economy. This is about what the consensus estimate expected for that report.

Here to offer their insights is Morningstar's Bob Johnson, our director of economic analysis, and Vishnu Lekraj, who is an equity analyst covering the employment sector.

Thanks for joining me, guys.

Vishnu Lekraj: Thank you.

Bob Johnson: Thank you.

Stipp: Bob, you thought that we might do a little bit better than consensus. It turned out we were right around consensus, although I think you probably got close to the number of private-sector jobs that you were looking for. What was your take on the number today?

Johnson: I thought it was a good number. It was kind of in between what Vishnu and I had said. I had said 180,000 and he said 120,000. So, I think we came out in the middle, and I think a lot of the market probably felt the same way. We were all encouraged by the retail hiring number we saw in yesterday's ADP report, which turned out to probably be differently calculated than what the government thought. But overall, I thought the number was good, and I think there were some revisions to the prior months as well, upwards, that also helped the report and made me think a little better of it.

Stipp: It show the trend maybe could be improving over the last few months or maybe heading into the New Year.

Vishnu, you said you thought this report was a sign that there is a little bit of strength building in the economy. How do you get that reading?

Lekraj: Well, when you look at the wages and the hours worked, and the number of jobs we added to the economy, and you take a look at all the sectors, things are acting more normal, in a normal way, and when you combine this with the strengthening in GDP, when you look at other metrics, other industrial production type metrics, they do corroborate and they do state that the economy is improving, and improving at an accelerating pace.

Stipp: Bob, when we look at some of the sectors that did well, construction was one where we finally saw some jobs added in the government report. I saw one report say, that's because of Sandy primarily. Do you agree with that?

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