U.S. economy adds 304,000 jobs in January

The economy, however, added 70,000 fewer jobs than previously reported in November and December.

"The Fed chickened out on further rate hikes this year and boy are they ever misreading the tea leaves on where the economy is going next", Chris Rupkey, chief economist at MUFG in NY, told Reuters.

The numbers exclude farm work, which is seasonal and often volatile. Average earnings for all workers grew slightly slower than the month before, at 3.2 percent year-over-year.

An analyst at the United States investment bank Charles Schwab, Kully Samra, stated: "A tight labour market and healthy wage growth support economic growth, and today's data should buoy consumer spending and could boost the stock market". Restaurants have added more than 80,000 jobs over the past two months-double the rate of hiring from the previous 10 months. What this largely speaks to is what the jobs market was prior to the government shutdown. Transportation, leisure and hospitality, construction and health care led the job gains. Regardless, January was the 11th consecutive month that the unemployment rate has been at or below four percent.

The strong job market, though, is encouraging more people who weren't working to begin looking.

Wages are being pushed up across a wide range of job sectors as the unemployment rate remains low and employers try to attract more workers with higher pay. It would also count contractors who did not work during this period as unemployed.

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How did the U.S. government shutdown impact jobs numbers? This typically means that the report is released on the first Friday after the reference month - so today's release will reflect preliminary employment data for the month of January. The BLS noted that there was an increase in the unemployment rate as laid-off federal workers filed for benefits.

The takeaway: The shutdown had a real impact on 800,000 federal workers, and it did cause the unemployment rate to rise, but the economy still added 304,000 jobs because the private sector continues to hire at a strong pace (8,000 jobs came from the public sector, but the bulk came from private employers).

Meanwhile, the increase in unemployment also was the result of more workers coming off the sidelines to join the job hunt.

"This is the sweet spot for investors right now", Long said.

The string of job growth underscores the long economic expansion since the Great Recession. And this latest data doesn't actually change the monthly average very much.

Wall Street breathed a sigh of relief this month as policymakers sent strong signals they meant to pause, meaning investors could be in for an unwelcome surprise.

  • Darren Santiago