Job Market Starts 2024 With a Bang

U.S. employers added 353,000 jobs in January, far exceeding forecasts, and revised figures showed last year was even stronger than previously reported.

The United States produced an unexpectedly sizable batch of jobs last month, a boon for American workers that shows the labor market retains remarkable strength after three years of expansion.

Employers added 353,000 jobs in January on a seasonally adjusted basis, the Labor Department reported on Friday, and the unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent.

The report also put an even shinier gloss on job growth for 2023, including revisions that added more than 100,000 to the figure previously tallied for December. All told, employers added 3.1 million jobs last year, more than the 2.7 million initially reported.

After the loss of 14 percent of the nation’s jobs early in the Covid-19 pandemic, the labor market’s endurance despite aggressive interest rate increases has caught economists off guard.

“I think everyone is surprised at the strength,” said Sara Rutledge, an independent economics consultant. “It’s almost like a ‘pinch me’ scenario.”

Ms. Rutledge helped tabulate the National Association for Business Economics’ latest member survey, which found rising optimism that the country would avoid a recession — matching a turnaround in measures of consumer sentiment as inflation has eased.

Unemployment has been under 4 percent for 24 months

Unemployment rate

Note: Data is seasonally adjusted.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Ella Koeze

Wage growth sped up in January

Year-over-year percentage change in earnings vs. inflation

Note: Earnings data is seasonally adjusted.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Ella Koeze

The education and health sector leads in job gains

Change in jobs in January 2024, by sector

Note: Data is seasonally adjusted.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

By Ella Koeze

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