US economy added 223,000 jobs in December, lowest monthly increase in two years

The Labor Department said Friday the U.S. economy added 223,000 jobs in December – the lowest monthly increase in two years.

The number is nevertheless a sign the economy remains stable as the Federal Reserve rapidly raises interest rates to try to slow economic growth and the pace of hiring while also trying to avoid a recession, according to the Associated Press.

The department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics also reports the U.S. unemployment rate last month fell to 3.5%, matching a 53-year low.

Last month’s job gains were less than half the 537,000 that were added in July, another sign U.S. inflation is starting to cool. In addition, average hourly wage growth last month slowed sharply – 4.6% in December from 12 months earlier, compared with a 4.8% year-over-year increase in November, the wire service also reports.