USA unemployment rate rises to 4 pct in January

Feb 04, 2019, 01:26
USA unemployment rate rises to 4 pct in January

Economists polled by Reuters had forecast payrolls increasing by only 165,000 jobs in January.

However, December's jobs growth figure was revised to 222,000, down from an initial estimate of 312,000.

The numbers exclude farm work, which is seasonal and often volatile. Average weekly earnings fared better, rising 3.5 percent year-over-year. Add Jobs Report as an interest to stay up to date on the latest Jobs Report news, video, and analysis from ABC News.

The partial government shutdown could have affected numbers, however. The Labor Department reported that 490,000 more people were working part-time in January but wanted full-time work, and the department noted that this "may reflect the impact of the partial federal government shutdown". Employment in the leisure and hospitality industry added 74,000 jobs, while construction added 52,000 positions in January.

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Still, restaurants continued to hire at a faster rate than the overall economy. Regardless, January was the 11th consecutive month that the unemployment rate has been at or below four percent. The five-week disruption left 800,000 federal employees furloughed or forced to work without pay and was expected to cost the economy $US11 billion, about a third of which may never be recovered.

It's worth noting that, by the end of January, weekly jobless claims had popped to their highest level since September 2017, although unemployment claims trickled to a 49-year low. The unemployment rate rose slightly to 4%. As a result, these workers were included in the January payrolls count in the survey of employers.

With key data from the Commerce Department, including the fourth-quarter gross domestic product report, still delayed because of the government shutdown, the employment report is the clearest sign that the economy remains on solid ground.

But the shutdown was also a driver of the rise in the unemployment rate, since the separate survey of households used to determine the joblessness counted furloughed workers as well as contractors as unemployed.

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In retail trade, employment ticked higher by 21,000, with growth in sporting goods as well as miscellaneous store and non-store retailers. Today's employment report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) will capture some of the disruption caused by the shutdown, but not all, due to differences in methodology of the two primary surveys that inform the jobs report.

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But consumer sentiment dropped to a more than two-year low, a reminder of the uncertainty over the economic expansion, now in its ninth year and the second longest on record.

Wall Street breathed a sigh of relief this month as policymakers sent strong signals they meant to pause, meaning investors could be in for an unwelcome surprise.

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