The US economy added 145,000 jobs last month, capping a year of solid but slowing growth, Hiring at retail and health care firms drove the gains, which pushed the US labour market to a 10th year of expansion.
While the country's 3.5% unemployment rate remained at historic lows, earnings growth slowed from November.
The average hourly wage rose at an annual rate of 2.9%, down from November's rate of 3.1%.
December's job gains mark a slowdown from the prior month, when employers added 256,000 positions.
Analysts had expected a slightly stronger performance last month, predicting an increase of about 164,000. But they said Friday's report from the US Labor Department showed that the US economy remained solid, despite fears of a slowdown.
"The key point here is that payroll growth is performing far better than implied by a host of leading indicators in late summer and fall," said Ian Shepherdson, chief economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics.
The US economy expanded at an annual rate of 2.1% in the third quarter, down sharply from the 3.1% rate reported earlier in the year.
Trade tensions, declines in manufacturing and weakness abroad had sparked fears of a slowdown. But consumer spending
- the main driver of the US economy
- has remained steady, buoyed in part by the tight labour market.