Strong hiring in January added 225,000 new jobs to the economy — blowing past economists’ expectations of 160,000, new federal data show.
The jobless rate also ticked up slightly to 3.6 percent from a 50-year low of 3.5 percent in December — but this was a reflection of more people looking for work as jobs opened up, the US Department of Labor said.
The agency attributed the January job boom to a range of industries that economists say were likely boosted by the unseasonably mild winter weather, like construction and hospitality. Construction led the gains with 44,000 adds, followed by health care with 36,000 new jobs, and leisure and hospitality with 36,000 gigs, the federal agency said.
Wage growth also got a small boost in January, with average hourly earnings climbing 0.2 percent month over month and 3.1 percent over the last year, compared with 0.1 percent and 2.9 percent in December.
January’s growth outpaced December’s disappointing boost of 147,000 jobs and last year’s monthly average addition of 175,000 gigs, suggesting that businesses remain confident in their growth despite some halted production in China due to that country’s viral coronavirus outbreak.
The January job additions “signaled that momentum in the labor market remains,” said Charlie Ripley, senior investment strategist for Allianz Investment Management. “The real question for most market participants is whether the endurance of job additions will continue to persist throughout the remainder of the year.”
Dampening Friday’s report, however, were revisions suggesting job growth in 2018 and 2019 was less stellar than previously indicated. The economy added 514,000 fewer gigs than reported from April 2018 through March of last year, the Labor Department said — marking the biggest downward revision for a yearlong period since 2009.
The feds also took 12,000 jobs off the total gains for the 2019 calendar year, issuing a revised seasonally adjusted total of 2,096,000. The changes nearly wiped out job growth for February 2019. The economy added just 1,000 gigs that month, down from the 56,000 that was previously published, according to the Labor Department.
“Historically, payrolls have tended to be overstated when the trend in growth is weakening, and vice versa,” said Kevin Cummins, a senior US economist at NatWest Markets. “The revisions could have a meaningful impact on assessments of the labor market.”
US stocks also dipped Friday despite the strong jobs numbers as the coronavirus continues to worries investors. This week, phone makers Ericsson and LG said they will be pulling out of the Mobile World Congress phone conference in Barcelona, citing the coronavirus.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average ended the day down 0.9 percent at 29,102.71, while the Nasdaq and S&P 500 were each off by about 0.5 percent.
Economists also warn that the virus, which this week killed a doctor who sounded alarms about the outbreak, could undermine President Trump’s trade deal with China, which calls for that country to buy .$40 billion in US farm products this year.
“While we don’t know how the outbreak will progress, it does make it even less likely that China will meet the terms of the already-ambitious Phase 1 trade deal,” said Glassdoor chief economist Andrew Chamberlain, referring to the US-China trade pact President Trump signed last month.
With Post wires