The Teflon economy remains intact.

The Labor Department said Friday that U.S. payrolls grew by 167,000 jobs in December, well above what economists had predicted, while the unemployment rate held steady at 4.5 percent.

That's the good news. The not-so-good news is that the manufacturing sector continued to see employment trend lower, with declines in motor vehicles and parts (-5,000), primary metals (-3,000), and textile mills (-2,000). Over the year, manufacturing employment fell by 72,000 with declines widespread throughout the industry.

The government said employment in transportation and warehousing continued to trend up in December, and for the year the industry added 106,000 jobs.

Employment in construction was about unchanged in December following losses in October and November that totaled 53,000. After increasing by 295,000 in 2005, construction employment was little changed in 2006. Over the year, gains in non-residential specialty trades and in heavy construction were largely offset by a decline in residential specialty trades.

Average hourly earnings rose by 8 cents, or 0.5 percent, in December.

Despite the falloff in manufacturing jobs, the sector enters 2007 on pretty solid footing. The latest report from the Institute for Supply Management, released earlier this week, shows the pace of new orders coming into factories is improving, and the recent cooling of oil and some commodities prices should be welcome news for an industry that is heavily dependent on both.