File photo: US Flag Photograph:( Others )
US job creation accelerated in January, as labour markets continued to absorb workers at a robust pace, unemployment clung to a record low and wages moved higher, the government reported today.
The world's largest economy added 200,000 net new positions in the month, more than expected, driven by gains in construction, retail, restaurants and health care, the Labour Department reported.
The result beat forecasts, which predicted an increase of 180,000, and helped offset December's disappointing result.
Meanwhile, the unemployment rate remained at 4.1 per cent for the fourth month in a row.
Hourly wages continued to rise for the month as labour markets remained tight -- with wages posting their largest 12 -month increase in more than nine years.
That will strengthen the case for the Federal Reserve to raise the benchmark interest rate in March, as it is widely expected to do.
Hourly wages rose 0.3 per cent from the prior month to USD 26.74, putting worker pay up 2.9 per cent compared to January of last year, the largest 12-month gain since June 2009.
Over the same period the consumer price index gained 2.1 percent, seasonally adjusted, but rising wages would be expected to put more pressure on prices.
The solid job gains were sure to be a relief for an embattled White House, as President Donald Trump has taken credit for the extended run of good economic news amid political turmoil.
Hiring by speciality trade contractors drove job creation in the construction sector, which added 36,000 new positions, while restaurants and bars added 31,000 new jobs.
The ranks of health care workers swelled for the month as well, adding 21,000 new positions.
Revisions to November and December subtracted a net 24,000 positions, bringing average job creation over the last three months of the year to 192,000, beating the 2017 monthly average of 181,000.
With the 4.1 per cent unemployment rate, a 17-year-low, the ranks of the long-term unemployed -- those looking for work for 27 weeks or longer -- continued to drop, falling six percent to 1.4 million.
However, the unemployment rate for African-Americans, which Trump hailed this week in his State of the Union address, rose nine-tenths of a percentage point to 7.7 percent, just below the 7.8 per cent in January last year.
Trump took office a year ago, pledging to create 25 million new jobs over a decade, or just over 200,000 per month.
However, Labour Department figures released today show the economy added 2.17 million jobs in 2017, fewer than 2016, when there were 2.34 million new jobs.