WASHINGTON – The United States’ unemployment rate climbed to 4 percent in January, up from 3.9 percent the previous month, while a much higher-than-expected 304,000 new jobs were created, the Labor Department said Friday.
The latest jobless figure – which remains at a level regarded as full employment – was in line with analysts’ forecasts.
But the expansion of nonfarm payrolls last month nearly doubled the expectations of economists, who had anticipated that 172,000 new jobs would be created.
Among Hispanics, the unemployment rate rose five-tenths of a percentage point to 4.9 percent, the highest level since January 2018, the report said.
Average hourly earnings for private-sector nonfarm employees rose by $0.03, or 0.1 percent, to $27.56.
The average hourly wage increase for the 12 months ending in January was 3.2 percent, slightly less than the 3.3 percent recorded in December (the highest since the Great Recession ended in 2009).
The labor force participation rate (the proportion of people aged 16-64 currently employed or seeking employment) ticked up from 63.1 percent in December to 63.2 percent in January.
January marked the 100th consecutive month of net job growth, extending the longest streak on record.
“Job gains occurred in a number of industries, including leisure and hospitality, construction, health care and transportation and warehousing,” William J. Wiatrowski, acting commissioner of the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, said in a statement Friday.
“Incorporating revisions for November and December, which decreased nonfarm payroll employment by 70,000, on net, monthly job gains averaged 241,000 over the past three months.”
Employment increased in January despite a partial US federal government shutdown that started at the end of December and lasted more than one month.
Wiatrowski said in his statement that there were “no discernible impacts of the partial federal government shutdown on the January estimates of employment, hours or earnings.”
“Federal government employment was essentially unchanged over the month (up by 1,000). Federal employees on furlough during the shutdown were considered employed in the establishment survey because they worked or received pay (or will receive pay) for the survey’s reference period, which is the pay period that includes the 12th of the month,” he added.
“It is likely that some private industries were affected by the shutdown; however, we are not able to quantify the impacts.”
The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the shutdown cost the US economy about $3 billion.