U.S. employers added 312,000 workers in December as the economy benefited from retail hiring during the busy holiday shopping season and the country’s economic expansion continued.

The increase reported by the U.S. Labor Department on Friday topped the average estimate of 180,000 from economists surveyed by FactSet and remained well above the level needed to keep up with inflation. The unemployment rate inched up to 3.9 percent from a nearly 50-year low of 3.7 percent as more people began seeking jobs.

The data “underscores that at least in terms of hiring and the job market, the U.S. economy remained quite solid as we wrapped up 2018,” Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com, told the Washington Examiner. “It was one of the better years we’ve seen for hiring in three or four years.”