U.S. adds 304,000 jobs in January, almost doubling economists' expectations

Monday, 04 Feb, 2019

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by 165,000 jobs in January.

However, December's jobs growth figure was revised to 222,000, down from an initial estimate of 312,000.

The Labor Department says 304,000 jobs were added in January, well above economists' expectations.

The numbers exclude farm work, which is seasonal and often volatile. Another issue to consider was that the ADP payrolls report had sort of tipped the hat to predict big jobs gains in January.

This shift is largely due to the partial government shutdown.

During the recent government shutdown, economists thought that hundreds of thousands of federal workers placed on furlough for more than a month may artificially impact the jobs numbers. Transportation, leisure and hospitality, construction and health care led the job gains. This is the fastest rate of wage increases in almost a decade.

Meanwhile, wages also rose slightly by 0.1-percent, while unemployment also ticked up to four-percent from 3.9-percent.

Still, experts put more stock in yearly averages than monthly ones, warning that unemployment rates for veterans can be volatile because they're based on a smaller sample size. Job creation has been a particularly strong suit for the economy. This pushed up the unemployment rate by one-tenth of a percentage point from 3.9 percent in December.

The unemployment rate, however, did tick up 0.1 percentage point to four percent, largely as a result of the longest government shutdown in US history. The Labor Department still counted them as employed since the workers were going to be paid eventually. But the government shutdown caused, you know, some delays in other economic reports.

USA economic growth is slowing from its rapid 2018 pace, but the continued robust gains in employment may cause pause to commentators that have been calling for recession.

Job growth in January 2019 was surprisingly strong with payroll gains of 304,0000 and average hourly earnings growth remaining above 3% yr/yr for the fourth consecutive month, seemingly defying mounting concerns about global economic conditions, the government shutdown, and declines in various confidence surveys.

But the shutdown was also a driver of the rise in the unemployment rate, since the separate survey of households used to determine the joblessness counted furloughed workers as well as contractors as unemployed. And the number of people working part time but looking for more work increased a lot last month.

The string of job growth underscored the long economic expansion since the Great Recession.

MARTIN: All right. NPR's Yuki Noguchi for us this morning with those new jobs numbers.