The United States generated another larger-than-expected batch of jobs last month, adding more evidence that the economy still has plenty of momentum even as its fuel reserves dwindle.
Employers added 353,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department reported Friday, and the unemployment rate remained at 3.7 percent.
After the loss of 14 percent of the country’s jobs early in the Covid-19 pandemic, the resilience of the labor market for more than three years has surprised economists, who expected that factors such as increases in unemployment rates interest from the Federal Reserve will slow hiring more sharply.
“Layoffs are happening, but workers can find new jobs,” said Sara Rutledge, an independent economic consultant. “It’s almost like a ‘pinch me’ scenario.”
Ms. Rutledge helped tabulate the latest report from the National Association for Business Economics. member surveywhich found growing optimism that the country would avoid a recession, coinciding with a shift in measures of consumer confidence as inflation has eased.
The new year dawned with what has been an exceptionally good economy for many workers, with the number of open jobs still exceeding the stock of job seekers, even as new immigrants and women have entered or reentered the workforce. in unexpected quantities. Wages have been growing faster than their historical rates, and strong productivity growth has helped prevent those higher wages from driving price increases.
Over the past year, most gains have been driven by sectors that were slower to recover from the pandemic (including hotels, restaurants and local governments) or that saw a huge boost due to structural factors, such as aging demographics and demand. repressed housing.
Other categories that saw tremendous growth during 2021 and 2022, including transportation, warehousing and information technology, have returned to their pre-pandemic trends. A handful of other sectors, including manufacturing and retail, have remained largely stable.
In the coming months, economists expect the labor market to look even more like it did before the pandemic, without the gigantic job growth that followed pandemic lockdowns but with few clear headwinds on the horizon.
“This year will be the year when the industrial composition normalizes,” said Satyam Panday, chief U.S. economist at S&P Global Ratings. “There is also always the risk of not catching up with the trend. But it seems that a soft landing is increasingly in sight, at least at this point.”