The US economy added 257,000 jobs last month, a full 20,000 more than economists had expected today's jobs report to show, the Wall Street Journal reports. The unemployment rate ticked up from 5.6% to 5.7%, but as the AP explains, that's partially because more Americans started looking for work, showing confidence in the economy. As Kevin Kingsbury writes for the Journal, "In this case, today’s increase is actually a good sign." But while the labor force participation rate did inch up to 62.9%, last month's 62.7% was a "multi-decade low." Paul Vigna's take: "So, that’s at least movement in the right direction, but it’s not much movement. ... It’s hard to get growth really going with so many people out of the work force."
December's new jobs number was revised significantly upward from 252,000 to 329,000, and November's number was revised all the way up to 414,000—the highest total in 17 years. Plus, average hourly wages rose 12 cents to $24.75, the biggest gain since September 2008. In the past year, hourly pay has increased 2.2%. That is ahead of inflation, which rose just 0.7% in 2014. All in all: The Bureau of Labor Statistics says 2014, in which average monthly job gains were 258,000, was the best year since 1999 for jobs growth.