Hiring picked up in January as employers added 225,000 jobs and the labor market continued to defy worker shortages and a slowing economy.
The unemployment rate rose to 3.6% from a 50-year low of 3.5%, the Labor Department said Friday.
The number of jobs gained from March 2018 to March 2019 was revised down by a whopping 514,000, slightly more than a preliminary estimate last summer.
Some economists expected mild weather to boost payroll gains in industries such as construction and leisure and hospitality. Goldman Sachs reckoned that dry weather in the Northeast and Ohio would lift job gains by as much as 30,000. Nomura anticipated a bump from unseasonably warm temperatures. Construction led the job gains with a healthy 44,000.
And with low unemployment spawning more worker shortages, Goldman believed that employers likely laid off fewer employees at the end of 2019, boosting payrolls in January.
Meanwhile, government hiring for the 2020 Census is expected to ramp up later this year but could have added up to 9,000 temporary jobs last month, Morgan Stanley said.
The bigger picture is that job growth is forecast to throttle back this year as the economy slows and low unemployment makes it even harder for businesses to find workers. Although U.S. trade deals with China, as well as Canada and Mexico, have eased business uncertainty, other trade fights with China and Europe still loom, adding to mounting concerns about the economic effects of the coronavirus and persistently sluggish global growth.
After job gains averaged about 175,000 jobs a month in 2019, many economists expect monthly increases of just over 100,000 this year.
Wage growth ticks up
Average hourly earnings increased 7 cents to $28.44, bumping up the annual gain from 2.9% to 3.1.
Pay increases have moderated after reaching 3.5% in late 2018 but have hovered around 3%, surprising some analysts who expected sharper gains as the unemployment rate has fallen.
The measured increases have helped hold down inflation, allowing the Federal Reserve to cut interest rates three times last year and keep rates low in 2020.
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