The economy added 151,000 nonfarm jobs in January, falling well short of consensus expectations leading up to the Labor Department’s release. Over the past three months, the economy has added an average of 231,000 jobs.
“Payroll employment gains were somewhat disappointing in January, but most of the weakness can be explained by payback from the strong weather-infused December report,” said Sophia Koropeckyj, Moody’s analyst (Economy.com Feb. 5).
Still, the unemployment rate dropped to 4.9%, falling below 5% for the first time since 2008. Furthermore, average wages jumped 0.5% in January, climbing to $25.39 an hour.
“The January employment report is clearly a half-glass of water,” said Steve Blitz, ITG Investment Research chief economist (MarketWatch Feb. 5).
Broken down by industry, retailers added the most new employees in January, taking on 58,000, while restaurants hired 47,000 workers and health care companies added 37,000.
Manufacturers also posted a strong month, adding 29,000 jobs during the month, the most in a year.
On the downside, transportation jobs were reduced by 20,000, and the energy industry, hamstrung by cheap oil prices, also shed positions.