The 2019 new year got off to a fine start with 304,000 jobs added in January, even though there was a 35-day partial government shutdown.
Job gains are harder to predict than the Super Bowl final score. Analysts expected only 170,000 new jobs would be created.
Federal economists reported Friday, that the shutdown that affected 800,000 government workers directly plus more than a million contractors — who prepare meals and clean and guard public buildings — did not downsize the month’s job hiring statistics.
The United States private sector appeared to expand employment at a healthy pace.
Another upbeat item was the fact that January was the 100th consecutive month of job growth since 2010.
The U.S. private sector grew by 296,000 positions, while public jobs experienced an increase of 8,000.
The top job creators were in leisure and hospitality, health care, construction and transportation and warehousing.
Leisure and hospitality added 74,000 positions, with the biggest gain coming in bars and restaurants, which rose by 37,000.
Construction saw a gain of 52,000, bringing that sector’s 12-month total to 338,000.
Health care contributed 42,000, bringing its year’s gain to 368,000. Transportation and warehousing added 27,000 and retail grew by 21,000 following a year where the sector showed a total gain of just 26,000.
Professional and business services were up 30,000 and manufacturing increased by 13,000, bringing that sector’s 12-month total to 261,000.
The average work week remained at 34.5 hours. The labor force participation rate held steady at 63.1% while those counted as not in the labor force fell by 639,000 to just over 95 million.
Federal government employment held steady in January. Furloughed employees were counted as employed in the survey because they are slated to receive pay for the period that included the 12th of the month.
The high numbers allow President Donald Trump to claim victory in the economy.
Larry Kudlow, Trump’s top economic advisor, said Friday on Fox Business. The USA is still the hottest economy in the world.
“January’s Job Report demonstrated the strength of the American economy, with 304,000 jobs added as the private sector job creation continued to surge despite the partial government shutdown,” Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta said in a statement, Friday.
The shutdown nearly inflicted serious damage on this progress, but ultimately, businesses behaved as if it would end quickly, Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, said. They kept hiring.
“Policymakers got pretty close to going over that cliff,” he said. “But they didn’t.”
The unemployment rate ticked higher to 4%, a level where it had been in June, a likely effect of the shutdown, according to the Labor Department.
“The economy’s got so much momentum that it’s just shrugging off all these other issues,” Josh Wright, chief economist at iCIMS, a hiring software firm said.
Less impressive, but good news nevertheless, was the fact that average worker’s hourly earnings rose by 85 cents, or 3.2% since January 2018. It was the same solid growth rate as the December figure showed.
Americans hope the outstanding performance in job growth will continue through the next 11 months.