January Jobs Report Contains 'One of the Bigger Surprises'

Employers add 304K jobs, well above predictions
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 1, 2019 7:54 AM CST
January Surprise: Hiring Smashes Expectations
In this Nov. 2, 2017, file photo a recruiter from the postal service, right, speaks with an attendee of a job fair in the cafeteria of Deer Lakes High School in Cheswick, Pa.   (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic, File)

US employers shrugged off last month's partial government shutdown and engaged in a burst of hiring in January, adding 304,000 jobs, the most in nearly a year. The figure is well above analyst expectations of 165,000, resulting in what is perhaps "one of the bigger surprises we've seen in some time for headline jobs numbers," writes Akane Otani at the Wall Street Journal. The healthy gain illustrates the job market's durability nearly a decade into the economic expansion, per the AP. The US has now added jobs for 100 straight months, the longest such period on record.

The Labor Department also said Friday the unemployment rate rose to 4% from 3.9%, but only for a technical reason: Roughly 175,000 federal workers were counted as temporarily unemployed because of the shutdown. "In all, it was a powerful performance at a time when economists increasingly have said they expect growth to slow in 2019," writes Jeff Cox at CNBC. Job growth in December was revised sharply lower, to 222,000 from a previously estimated 312,000. Still, hiring has accelerated since summer, a development that has surprised economists, because hiring typically slows when unemployment is so low. Also of note: Wages remained relatively stable, suggesting that inflation is in check. (Read more unemployment rate stories.)

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