The U.S. economy added 225,000 jobs in January shattering forecasters’ expectations. Wages for workers increased 3.1% from last year at this time and unemployment remained steady at 3.6%. The three-month moving average for jobs created was 211,000, indicating a strong consistent trend. January marks over 100 consecutive months of uninterrupted job gains.
It was surprising to notice, buried in the report, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics now includes same-sex couples in its count of married workers. Up until now, only heterosexual marriages were included in the reports. This represents a radical change and a huge boost for the LGBTQ community to be recognized in official statistics.
Another positive surprise in the January jobs report was the upward revisions of new jobs for November and December by 5,000 to 261,000, and by 2,000 to 147,000, respectively. The labor force participation rate—which covers the amount of people in the job market or seeking work—increased to the highest level in seven years. The strong growth in jobs offers relief to the concerns over the coronavirus, Boeing’s halt of jet production, trade and tariff wars, the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump and other geopolitical events that could have adversely impacted employment.
The service sector, which includes leisure, hospitality, education, retail and healthcare, led the growth with 72,000 new people added to payrolls in January. Construction performed well with employment rising by 44,000. Most of the gains were due to specialty trade contractors. Manufacturing, however, remained stubbornly in a monthslong slump and saw a loss of 12,000 positions.
January’s numbers reflect a continuing trend—the service industry is aggressively hiring, while manufacturing is facing prolonged difficulties. It portrays a bifurcated job market. The services sector, which tends to have low-paid, part-time and gig-economy type of jobs, is leading the hiring boom. This is good news, but it has drawbacks. These jobs are usually considered of lower quality, meaning that the pay is relatively low, the hours are long and there is little chance for advancement.