Worst year for US mining jobs since 1986

2015 one of the worst years ever for US mining jobs

Miners ending their shift at the Virginia-Pocahontas Coal Company Mine #4 near Richlands, Virginia in 1974. Wearing a red hard hat meant you were new on the job.

While the official US payroll numbers released on Friday showing an increase of 292,000 jobs in December came in way above expectations, the mining industry suffered its 12th consecutive month of employment decline.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the 8,000 positions eliminated in December means mining and logging lost 131,000 jobs for the year.

Mining drives the employment trend in this sector and accounts for essentially all losses over the month (-8,000) and over the year (-129,000). These losses were concentrated in support activities for mining says the BLS.

It was the first year of annual job losses since 2009 at the height of the global financial crisis and the biggest decline in employment since 1986. 2015 also saw the third most jobs lost in one year in the mining and logging industry according to BLS data going back to 1939.

In December 782,000 were employed in the sector – that's 475,000 fewer people working than at the height in 1981.

Average wages are better than the $25.24 average across industries – $31.27 an hour for all employees and $26.51 an hour on average for nonsupervisory employees in December according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, but here the trend is also down.

Wages in the industry fell 1.4% for December compared to flat growth in hourly earnings in December for the total labour market.

2015 one of the worst year ever for US mining jobs