U.S. Economy Added 304,000 Jobs in January; Unemployment at 4%

Why This Jobs Report Will Be a Mess

The Labor Department released its monthly estimate of hiring, unemployment and wages for January on Friday morning. The report provided an important snapshot of the American economy.

  • Average earnings rose 3 cents per hour in December, and were up 3.2 percent from a year earlier.

  • December’s job growth was revised sharply downward. The government now says employers added 222,000 jobs in the final month of the year, down from an earlier estimate of 312,000.

The government shutdown may have hurt the economy, but there’s no sign it slowed down the United States’ record-setting job market.

January’s growth means that American employers have added jobs for 100 consecutive months, extending a record run. The unemployment rate is near a multidecade low, and wages — long a weak point — are rising.

The shutdown idled hundreds of thousands of federal workers for much of January, and left hundreds of thousands of others working without pay. Ripple effects hit everyone from unpaid government contractors to Washington lunch spots that lost business.

But the disruption doesn’t appear to have dissuaded private-sector employers from continuing their strong pace of hiring. And furloughed federal workers counted as employed for the purposes of government statistics.

Government contractors generally won’t receive back pay, so if they didn’t work, they weren’t counted. Ditto for other private-sector workers who were laid off (or weren’t hired) because of the shutdown. But most economists expected those effects to be small in the context of an economy that employs more than 150 million people.

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