Despite Shutdown, Jobs Went Up In January


Clouds have been gathering over the economic expansion, now in its ninth year and the second longest on record, with business and consumer confidence deteriorating in recent months. Job growth around 120,000 is more than enough to keep the unemployment rate under 4%.

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Private economists had expected an increase of about 170,000 jobs and the unemployment rate to be unchanged.

December was revised down from the originally reported 312,000 to 222,000.

The healthy gain the government reported Friday illustrated the job market's durability almost a decade into the economic expansion.

Gains occurred in a number of sectors: Leisure and hospitality added 74,000 jobs, construction 52,000, health care about 45,000, retail almost 21,000 and manufacturing 13,000.

Job growth increased broadly in January. Average hourly earnings, meanwhile, rose by 3 cents to $27.56.

The partial government shutdown caused 800,000 workers to miss two paychecks.

The shutdown also drove about a half million people into part-time work, swelling this group to 5.1 million, its highest level in 16 months. Nevertheless, the final January data should continue to reflect a healthy labor market. Last week's applications for unemployment benefits came in at 253,000, above from the 49-year low hit earlier in the month but still low by historical standards.

The partial government shutdown has delayed the release of a range of government data about the economy, including statistics on housing, factory orders, and fourth-quarter growth.

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Just over 55,000 federal employees filed jobless claims during the shutdown, but those employees will have to pay back any benefits after receiving backpay from the government opening back up.

The healthy gain the government reported Friday illustrated the job market's resilience almost a decade into the economic expansion.

MARTIN: What do these numbers show?

Yet strong hiring should boost household incomes, fueling more consumer spending, which would help drive economic growth. That's way beyond what analysts were expecting. Regardless, January was the 11th consecutive month that the unemployment rate has been at or below four percent.

NOGUCHI: Yeah, it's a little confusing. The number is considered to be far ahead as compared to the forecasts. So there are two separate surveys. So some furloughed workers classified themselves as "employed" while others said (correctly) that they were "unemployed temporarily". One of them is the payroll survey, which measures hiring. As a result, these workers were included in the January payrolls count in the survey of employers. But since Congress agreed to pay these workers retroactively, they were employed. Interestingly, there was a dramatic spike in the number of Americans working part-time jobs in January. But that effect is likely temporary.

Last month's healthy job gain will assuage some concerns that had arisen about the USA economy. The furloughed federal workers were still on the payroll that day, even though they were not getting paid.

Retail jobs, however, have stayed essentially flat over the past year as e-commerce - usually represented in the transportation and warehousing category - has taken over an increasing share of employment in the sector. Probably, those are government workers and contractors looking to bridge that period with temporary work. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 3 cents to $23.12 in January.

With its January employment report, the government published its annual "benchmark" revisions and updated the formulas it uses to smooth the data for regular seasonal fluctuations. Hiring was likely boosted by mild temperatures in January. How does that fit into the overall employment trajectory?

"I am right now planning our first family vacation in three years", she said. That's a very long run of growth. With unemployment so low and many companies struggling to fill jobs, layoffs might not have been widespread. And that's great news for workers because that lack of available workforce means that employers have to pay more.

Though Jacumin, 42, and her husband both have Navy pensions, her new job has provided much-needed income and health insurance.