United States employment up and wages down in latest employment report

Jeannie Matthews
February 4, 2019

USA unemployment rose from 3.9 percent to 4 percent in January, ending a six-month streak in the threes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Average earnings for all workers grew slightly slower than the month before, at 3.2 percent year-over-year. The impact of the partial federal government shutdown contributed to the uptick in these measures.

The partial government shutdown that ended last Friday, which was the longest on record, may have had a slight impact on the report.

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

Job growth increased broadly in January.

Despite the Trump administration's ongoing trade war with China, the manufacturing sector also added 13,000 jobs. Job creation has been a particularly strong suit for the economy.

The unemployment rate rose to 4.0% in January, but the BLS pointed out that rise from 3.9% was due to the government shutdown. This lifted the unemployment rate one-tenth of a percentage point from 3.9 percent in December.

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 continued acceleration in nonfarm job growth since late 2017 is remarkable and likely attributable to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. You saw the unemployment rate go to 4 percent.

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

"The payroll number was significantly stronger than what was expected, so a lot more people are finding jobs basically". As a result, these workers were included in the January payrolls count in the survey of employers.

North said the rate is almost a ideal number, "not too hot" so as to spark fears of inflation, but "not too cold" to raise concerns about wage stagnation.

While the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the partial government shutdown cost the US gross domestic product $11 billion ($8 billion of which is expected to be recovered later in the year), the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that it had little effect on hiring.

MARTIN: So explain how it seems to indicate that the government shutdown, which affected 800,000 federal workers, that had virtually no effect on the job market. Stocks on Wall Street rose, while U.S. Treasury prices fell. Employment at construction sites surged 52,000, the most since February 2018, after increasing 28,000 in December.

Private sector payrolls were up by 296,000, with big increases seen in the construction and leisure and hospitality industries.

It was boosted by a 500,000 increase in the number of people working part time, likely because of the government shutdown. Retail payrolls rebounded by 20,800 jobs.

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