Jobs gained 257,000 in January after strong increases of 329,000 in December and 423,000 in November. December and November were revised up a net 86,000. With the revision, November is the strongest month since May 2010.
The unemployment rate nudged up to 5.7 percent from 5.6 percent in December. The rise was due to a sharp rebound in the labor force. The labor force participation rate rose to 62.9 percent from 62.7 percent in December. It appears that some discouraged workers are returning to the labor force—a positive sign for how workers view the economy.
Goods-producing jobs increased 58,000 after a 73,000 boost in December. Manufacturing increased 22,000 after rising 26,000 in December. Construction jumped 39,000 in January after gaining 44,000 the month before. Mining slipped 4,000 after rising 3,000 in December.
Government jobs declined by 10,000 in January after a rise of 9,000 the month before.
The labor force may be tightening a bit as average hourly earnings rebounded 0.5 percent, following a 0.2 percent dip in December. However, part of the boost in wages was due to increases in some states’ minimum wage.
Today’s report may tip the balance for the Fed to think about a first increase in policy rates this year rather than next-although still at a slow pace.
Overall, the latest employment situation suggests that the consumer sector is still the current backbone of the recovery. Also, the labor market has been given an upgrade with upward revisions to November and December.