Unemployment rate holds at 4.1%, matching lowest since 2000
Average workweek unexpectedly falls to 34.3 hours from 34.5
U.S. hiring picked up in January and wages rose at the fastest annual pace since the recession ended, as the economy’s steady move toward full employment extended into 2018.
Nonfarm payrolls rose 200,000 -- compared with the median estimate of economists for a 180,000 increase -- after an upwardly revised 160,000 advance, Labor Department figures showed Friday. The jobless rate held at 4.1 percent, matching the lowest since 2000, while average hourly earnings rose a more-than-expected 2.9 percent from a year earlier, the most since June 2009.
The report puts the nation closer to maximum employment -- one of the goals of the Federal Reserve -- and sets a solid tone for hiring this year following continued gains in payrolls in 2017. That could be starting to generate a long-awaited, sustained pickup in wages and boost demand in this expansion, which may also get a lift this year from tax-cut legislation signed by President Donald Trump in December.
“The positive momentum in hiring remained intact at the start of the year,” Sam Bullard, senior economist at Wells Fargo Securities LLC, wrote in a note before the report. “The strength of the broader economy and the labor market has drawn in more people into the labor force, which is encouraging for further hiring gains.”
The Labor Department’s figures included its annual benchmark update to the establishment survey, spanning payrolls, hours and earnings over the past five years.
Average hourly earnings rose 0.3 percent from the prior month following an upwardly revised 0.4 percent gain, the report showed. The 2.9 advance from a year earlier -- which partly reflected a downward revision to the January 2017 wage figure -- compared with projections for a 2.6 percent increase. December’s gain was revised upward to 2.7 percent.