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Robust Job Surge Marks Start of 2024, Defying Economic Challenges

-Editorial

To kick off 2024, the nation’s employers showcased an impressive surge in hiring, introducing 353,000 new jobs in January. This robust hiring spree serves as the latest testament to the economy’s resilience, effortlessly overcoming the challenges posed by the highest interest rates in two decades.

In January, nonfarm payroll employment in the United States increased by 353,000, with a stable unemployment rate of 3.7 percent, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Job gains were observed in various sectors, including professional and business services, health care, retail trade, and social assistance. However, the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry experienced a decline in employment.

Throughout the third consecutive month, the unemployment rate held steady at 3.7 percent, with minimal changes for various demographic groups. Both Whites (3.5 percent) and Hispanics (5.0 percent) demonstrated little or no alteration in January.

Long-term unemployment, encompassing those jobless for 27 weeks or more, remained relatively stable at 1.3 million, constituting 20.8 percent of the total unemployed population. The labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio exhibited no significant shifts in January, maintaining levels at 62.5 percent and 60.2 percent, respectively.

Part-time employment for economic reasons saw little change, with 4.4 million individuals still working fewer hours than desired due to reductions or difficulties securing full-time positions. Meanwhile, those not in the labor force but desiring employment, numbering 5.8 million, experienced minimal adjustments in January.

Among individuals not in the labor force desiring a job, the number of marginally attached individuals held steady at 1.7 million, with 452,000 being classified as discouraged workers, perceiving no job opportunities available for them.

Turning to the Establishment Survey Data, total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 353,000 in January, aligning closely with December’s gain of 333,000. Throughout 2023, monthly payroll employment averaged an increase of 255,000. Key sectors such as professional and business services, health care, retail trade, and social assistance contributed to January’s job gains.

Specifically, healthcare employment saw an average monthly increase of 58,000 in 2023, while retailers lost 3,000 jobs in January. Social assistance employment rose by 30,000, reflecting continued growth in individual and family services, averaging 23,000 per month in 2023.

Manufacturing experienced a modest uptick in January, with a gain of 23,000 jobs, driven by increases in chemical manufacturing and printing-related support activities. Government employment continued its upward trend, adding 36,000 jobs, notably in federal government and local government, excluding education.

The information industry exhibited mixed results, with employment in motion picture and sound recording industries increasing by 12,000, while telecommunications saw a decrease of 3,000. However, overall information industry employment decreased by 76,000 since November 2022.

In contrast, the mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry saw a decline of 5,000 jobs in January, following little net change in 2023. Employment remained relatively stable in other major industries, including construction, wholesale trade, transportation and warehousing, financial activities, leisure and hospitality, and other services.

Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 19 cents (0.6 percent) to $34.55 in January, marking a 4.5 percent increase over the past 12 months. For private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees, average hourly earnings increased by 13 cents (0.4 percent) to $29.66.

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 0.2 hours to 34.1 hours in January, with a year-over-year decrease of 0.5 hours. In manufacturing, the average workweek remained unchanged at 39.8 hours, while overtime edged down by 0.1 hours to 2.7 hours. Production and nonsupervisory employees saw a 0.2-hour decrease in their average workweek, reaching 33.5 hours.

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