U.S. payrolls grow by 304,000 jobs, jobless rate edges up to 4%

by Wesley Brown (wesbrocomm@gmail.com) 54 views 

U.S. payroll employment continued to see full-bodied growth in January as more than 300,000 new workers were added to the nation’s brimming labor pool in January, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) monthly employment situation summary released Friday (Feb. 1).

Nationwide, the U.S. unemployment rate now stands at 4%, up 0.1 percentage point between December and January as the impact of the federal government shutdown contributed to the uptick in the number of unemployed persons in the labor pool, BLS official said.

The January job report follows a similarly robust labor force assessment in February when the U.S. economy added 312,000 jobs the unemployment rate climbed 0.1 percentage point to 3.9%. However, BLS officials revised that total down to a more modest 222,000 job gains during the run up to the Christmas holiday season.

U.S. Labor Department Secretary Alexander Acosta touted the strength of the U.S. job market following the first snapshot of the U.S. job market in 2019, noting that January is the 11th straight month that the unemployment rate has been at or below 4%,

“January’s job report demonstrated the strength of the American economy, with 304,000 jobs added as private sector job creation continued to surge despite the partial government shutdown,” Acosta said in a statement.

As news of the strong job growth stoked financial markets on Friday, Conference Board Chief Economic Chad Levanon fueled session activity noting that continued job growth and rising rates could force the Federal Reserve to shift its interest rate policy again.

“The main message from this report is clear: While financial markets and business confidence measures were moving south in recent months, employers kept adding workers at a fast rate …,” said the chief economist for the influential corporate think tank that produces the highly-watched Consumer Confidence Index survey. “If anything, employment growth has accelerated in recent months. Due to the government shutdown, some of the data in this month’s job report is hard to interpret, especially government employment and the overall unemployment rate. Today’s report increases the probability that as wages continue to increase more rapidly, rising inflationary pressure may force the Federal Reserve to make yet another policy shift in its policy around mid-year, and start raising rates again.”

This is the first time since June that the nation’s jobless rate has touched 4% since June 2018, when it fell below that level for the first time since President Bill Clinton was in office. Following Friday’s report, total nonfarm payroll employment has averaged 223,000 over the past 12 months, after revisions. In 2018, U.S. monthly job growth range from a low of 119,000 in September to a high of 324,000 in March.

Two weeks ago, Arkansas Department of Workforce Services (DWS) officials reported that Arkansas’ unemployment held steady at 3.6% for the second straight month as 2,202 workers were added to the state’s 1.35 million-person. Of those workers that entered the state’s job marketplace, there were 1,276 more employed and 926 unemployed now getting paychecks.

The jobless rates for the major worker groups included an increased to 4.9% for Hispanics in January. The unemployment level for adult men (3.7%), adult women (3.6%), teenagers (12.9%), Whites (3.5%), Blacks  (6.8%), and Asians (3.1%) showed little change over the month.

There were 6.5 million listed on the unemployment rolls, including 175,000 that were reported as temporarily laid off. This figure includes furloughed some of the more than 800,000 federal employees who were classified as unemployed on temporary layoff during the 35-day shutdown, officials said.

The number of long-term unemployed, or those jobless for 27 weeks or more, was essentially unchanged at 1.3 million in October and accounted for 19.3% of the unemployed. The nation’s labor force participation rate, at 63.2%, and the employment-population ratio, at 60.7% were most unchanged in January. However, both measures were up by 0.5 percentage point over the year. There were 1.6 million persons that were marginally attached to the labor force, essentially unchanged from a year earlier. These potential workers were not in the labor force, but wanted and were available for work, and had looked for a job sometime in the prior 12 months. They were not counted as unemployed because they had not searched for work in the 4 weeks preceding the monthly survey.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 3 cents to $27.56, following a 10-cent gain in December. Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 85 cents, or 3.2%. Average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 3 cents to $23.12 in January.

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised up from 176,000 to 196,000, along with the 90,000 jobs that were clipped from the previous 312,000 estimate in December. With these revisions, employment gains in November and December combined were 70,000 less than previously reported.

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