U.S. Added 304,000 Jobs in January, Dismissing Concerns of a Shutdown Effect

Feb 25, 2019

THE U.S. LABOR MARKET addest a robust 304,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in January, bucking concerns that a volatile market and the 35-day partial government shutdown would significantly affect job growth.

January's gain is significantly above experts' expectations and handily beats last year's monthly average of 223,000. The numbers, released by the Labor Department, show that much of the private sector was unphased by the shutdown that furloughed some 380,000 federal workers and forced about 420,000 to work without pay.

Despite worries about the shutdown's effect on jobs, it appears the impact was relatively minimal, boosting the unemployment count slightly and increasing the number of people working part-time but otherwise leaving the payroll count unaltered. Both furloughed federal workers and those working without pay were counted as having payroll jobs, though government contractors or other employees out of work because of the lapse in funding were not included in the count of payroll jobs, the Labor Department said.

Unemployment rose to 4 percent in January, up from 3.9 percent in December. The increase is at least partially attributable to furloughed workers forced to sit at home during the shutdown; the Labor Department said it counted those workers as unemployed or on temporary layoff because they were not working during the week of Jan. 6-12, the reference period for the statistics. Government contractors and other employees not working due to the government shutdown were also counted as unemployed, though the Labor Department considered federal employees working without pay employed because they were technically at work that week.

The shutdown also likely nudged up the number or people working part-time for economic reasons, sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers. This number jumped almost half a million to 5.1 million in January.

During the shutdown, stories emerged of government workers driving for ride-sharing services and working odds jobs as a way to make ends meet during the month they went without a paycheck.

But outside of those ripple effects of the shutdown, the jobs number alleviate anxiety that the private sector will begin to act on concerns of an economic slowdown, particularly after the Federal Reserve raised federal interest rates in December and eyes future hikes. The central bank kept rates steady in January and promised to be patient when making decisions this year.

"The respectable employment data provides something of a relief, for now at least, for members of the Federal Reserve who have been bracing for the possibility of a more serious slowdown in the U.S. economy," said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate.

The Labor Department also revised the December jobs numbers by about 90,000 jobs, taking the tally from 312,000 to a still-strong 222,000.

Source: U.S. News

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