U.S. Employers Add Robust 304,000 Jobs - Despite Government Shutdown

John Blanding  Globe Staff  File

USA employers shrugged off last month's partial government shutdown and engaged in a burst of hiring in January, adding 304,000 jobs, the most in almost a year.

In January, average hourly earnings for all private-sector workers rose by 3 cents, or 0.1 percent, to 27.56 USA dollars, following a 10-cent gain in December.

The partial government shutdown caused 800,000 workers to miss two paychecks.

January was the 100th straight month of job gains.

"Best January for the DOW in over 30 years", Trump said in a February 1 tweet, commenting on the solid growth of the Dow Jones Industrial Average index since the market's December 24 low.

Numerous remaining furloughed federal employees were classified as "employed but absent from work", so those employees were not counted in the unemployment rate.

Average hourly earnings rose 3.2% from a year earlier.

The December report also had a low initial response rate and its data was revised down sizably today to 222,000 from 312,000.

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The shutdown also drove about half a million people into part-time work, swelling this group to 5.1 million, its highest level in 16 months.

United States employers added an average of 223,000 jobs per month in 2018.

Job gains in January were led by the leisure and hospitality sector, which has added 410,000 jobs over the past year.

Yet even employers whose revenue dropped likely held onto their workers during January.

But the longest shutdown in history, which ended a week ago, pushed up the unemployment rate to a seven-month high of 4.0 percent. This boosted the unemployment numbers, but the federal employees' eventual return to work was not included as new jobs added. But in the other survey, which measures the jobless rate, a lot of these same workers were counted as unemployed. Now, that would definitely hit federal contractors, who make up the biggest segment of those that do government work.

Wages are being pushed up across a wide range of job sectors as the unemployment rate remains low and employers try to attract more workers with higher pay. Retail employment, which has been essentially flat over the past year, rebounded by 20,800 jobs, while professional and business services employment increased by 30,000 jobs last month.

While the shutdown delayed reporting of some economic indicators, like the fourth quarter gross domestic product growth, the job numbers suggest that the shutdown didn't significantly affect the broader economy.

The consumer confidence index has been declining, corporate profits are peaking and the housing market is weak, North said. The unemployment rate is so low at this point that there are just fewer people who don't already have jobs.

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