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U.S. economy smashes expectations, creating 304,000 jobs in January

The economy added 304,000 jobs in January — significantly more than the 170,000 economists were expecting —while the unemployment rate ticked higher to 4.0% from 3.9%, reflecting the impact of the government shutdown, the Labor Department said on Friday.

Data: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Why it matters: With the highest labor force participation rate in 6 years, the job market continues to defy expectations that the economy is approaching full employment. January marked a record 100th straight month of job gains.

  • Economists expect the unemployment rate, which rose since furloughed federal employees were counted as unemployed, to tick back down as those employees return to work (granted the government doesn't shut down again).

The details:

  • Wages rose 3.2% year-over-year in January, falling from the revised 3.3% growth in December.
  • December's blockbuster report was revised lower to 222,000 from 312,000, while November's report was revised higher by 20,000 jobs to 196,000.
  • The number of workers who worked part-time for economic reasons rose to 5.1 million from 4.6%, which may reflect how some furloughed workers coped with delayed pay from the government shutdown.

What they're saying:

  • "After staggering numbers for December, January’s strong performance quells any lingering feelings that a hiring plateau might have occurred from tariffs, the government shutdown or recent market volatility," said Steve Rick, chief economist at CUNA Mutual Group.
  • "Job growth would probably have been even higher without the government shutdown, which delayed hiring in many companies," Julia Pollak, labor economics researcher at ZipRecruiter, tweeted.
  • Mohamed El-Erian, chief economic adviser at Allianz, tweeted in part: ""Details [of the jobs report] mostly point to a solid labor market and will counter concerns about a significant growth slowdown, and put an end to talk of 2019 recession."