Bright Employment Picture Seen in January

By Toni Vranjes

February 6, 2015

The job market is shining bright in the new year, with wide-ranging job growth and strong wage increases.

Employers created 257,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department reported today. And that figure included a number of “good” jobs in higher-paying fields, according to Doug Handler, chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight.

up_arrow_5_pt_7Last month, the unemployment rate increased slightly from 5.6 percent to 5.7 percent, but it rose for a good reason. The labor force increased by 703,000, after factoring in annual adjustment to population controls, according to the Labor Department. Handler said that the growing labor force pushed the jobless rate up.

In January, retail trade had especially strong growth, adding 46,000 jobs. Employment gains also occurred in construction, health care, financial activities, manufacturing, professional and technical services, and other areas.

The report also shows that average hourly earnings jumped by 12 cents last month. By contrast, earnings declined by 5 cents in December.

Meanwhile, the government revised employment growth upward for both November and December. For both months combined, there were 147,000 more jobs than earlier reported.

Overall, it was a “fantastic” report, Handler told Revive My Career. The job gains were very broad-based, and the quality of the new jobs was better than usual, he said.

In an analysis of the report, Handler cited good jobs in construction, manufacturing and services. “The construction and manufacturing sectors added 39,000 and 22,000 jobs, respectively in January, for gains of 308,000 and 228,000 from January 2014,” he wrote. “These gains don’t go very far in replacing the jobs that were lost during the 2007-2009 recession, but it’s a step in the right direction. Solid job growth in the financial services areas (26,000 jobs), professional and technical services (32,500 jobs) added to job creation in sectors with above-average weekly earnings.”

Although the jobs report was very positive, Handler noted that a separate government report released this week — on U.S. productivity — was less encouraging. A key takeaway was that “all the growth that occurred throughout 2014 was due to an increase in hours worked rather than more output per hour,” he wrote in an analysis. “This is not the type of report from which a robust long-term growth forecast follows.”

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