Economy Creates 227K Jobs in January; Unemployment Rate 4.8 Percent

WASHINGTON (Los Angeles Times/TNS) -

The labor market started the year strong, adding a robust 227,000 net new jobs last month while more people began looking for work, the Labor Department said Friday.

Although the January job-growth figure exceeded expectations — and was the best since September — that was somewhat offset by a downward revision of job growth the previous two months by 39,000.

Those changes meant that job growth averaged 187,000 for 2016 and that President Donald Trump is inheriting a solid labor market.

The unemployment rate last month inched up a tenth of a percentage point to 4.8 percent, but that wasn’t bad news: The uptick was largely caused by 584,000 more people looking for work last month after accounting for annual adjustments made to U.S. population figures.

The share of working-age Americans in the force increased to 62.9 percent in January. That was the best level since September, though still near a 40-year low.

But wage growth remained a concern: Average hourly earnings were up 3 cents to $26 last month, down from December’s strong 6-cent increase. For the 12 months ended Jan. 31, wages increased 2.5 percent.

The construction industry had a big jump in hiring in January, adding 36,000 net new jobs compared with just 2,000 the previous month, the Labor Department reported. But factory payroll growth slowed. Manufacturers added 5,000 net new jobs last month after an 11,000 gain the previous month.

Retailers had a strong month, increasing their payrolls by 46,000. But state governments shed 9,000 net jobs.

The January jobs report was the final one for the Obama administration, though job growth may have been influenced by increased business and consumer confidence after Trump’s election. The data was collected in the middle of last month, before Trump took office.

Analysts had expected job gains last month of 175,000, and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 4.7 percent.