The U.S. job machine continued to fire on all cylinders in January, adding a higher-than-expected 257,000 jobs while estimates of previous monthly growth were also revised higher.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the overall unemployment rate ticked up 0.1 percentage point to 5.7 percent, in part because so many previously discouraged workers are now coming back into the job market, economists said. December’s official 5.6 percent rate was the lowest of the Obama presidency.
Not only was the number of job gains in January higher than forecasters had expected, the government said that the U.S. economy added a revised total of 414,000 in November — the highest monthly total since 1998 — and 329,000 in December, 30 percent higher than the preliminary estimate of 252,000.
The jobless number was heartening the face of a mixed bag of recent economic indicators and fears that the stronger dollar and the weakness of America’s leading trading partners could slow the recovery. Many have also questioned the strength of the labor gains with so many discouraged workers dropping out of the market altogether and middle-class workers yet to see sizable wage increases.
Average hourly wages also increased in January, from $24.63 to $24.75 an hour, the Labor Department said.