By Patricia de Arce
Washington, Feb 4 (EFE).- The United States’ labor market in January was much stronger than economists were anticipating, with 467,000 jobs created and the unemployment rate rising only slightly to 4 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said Friday.
The slight rise in the jobless rate from 3.9 percent in December was expected, a result of more people actively looking for work and being counted as unemployed.
But the sharp employment growth was a pleasant surprise considering the rapid spread of the Omicron coronavirus variant at the close of 2021 and the start of 2022.
The amount of jobs created was more than triple the 150,000 that many economists surveyed by news outlets had forecast.
“America’s job machine is going stronger than ever,” President Joe Biden said in remarks from the White House about January’s employment report.
This latest positive report comes on the heels of news that employers added a record 6.6 million jobs in Biden’s first 12 months in office, as Americans went back to work following economically crippling, Covid-19-triggered lockdowns in 2020.
“If you can’t remember another year when so many people went to work, there’s a reason. It never happened,” the president said. “History’s been made here. It comes alongside the largest drop in the unemployment rate in a single year on record (from 6.7 percent at the start of 2021 to 3.9 percent at the end of that year).”
In addition to the strong January jobs report, the December one looks much better now as well after job gains that month were upwardly revised from 199,000 to 510,000.
In total, 700,000 jobs were added over the final two months of 2021 as a result of revisions.
The leisure and hospitality sector led the way in January with 151,000 jobs created, thanks above all to more employment at bars and restaurants.
A total of 86,000 jobs were created in the area of professional and business services, particularly in management and technical consulting and in computer systems design and related services.
Retail trade employment rose by 61,000 jobs in January, wile 54,000 positions were added in transportation and warehousing.
The unemployment rate in January was slightly higher among men 20 years and older (3.8 percent) than women 20 years and older (3.6 percent), while the jobless rate for both sexes aged 16 to 19 stood at 10.9 percent.
By race, the unemployment rate was highest among the African-American population (6.9 percent), followed by Hispanics (4.9 percent) and Asians (3.6 percent). Unemployment among the white population came in at 3.4 percent.
Last month, the labor force participation rate (the percentage of the population that is either working or actively looking for work) rose three-tenths of a percentage point to 62.2 percent.
Average hourly and weekly earnings for US employees rose $0.23 in January to $31.63. Over the past 12 months, average earnings have climbed by 5.7 percent.
Even so, the commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a unit of the US Department of Labor, put the labor market improvement in perspective.
“Employment has increased by 19.1 million since April 2020 but is down by 2.9 million, or 1.9 percent, from its level before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic in February 2020,” William Beach said. EFE