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BLS: Employment up 313000; unemployment rate unchanged

10 March 2018

Investors were watching the Labor Department's wage growth number closely. As such, the latest jobs numbers confirm that the labor market has tightened significantly, with manufacturers increasing employment by a rather robust 18,876 per month on average since the end of 2016.

The economy has expanded for 104 straight months, or almost nine years, the third-largest expansion on record, and hiring often declines as recessions fade further into the past.

One of the longer-term questions is how continued unemployment will affect wages.

The unemployment rate remained at 4.1%, the lowest rate in more than 17 years, while the labor force participation rate increased to 63% from 62.7% during the month. In February, the rate was 6.9 percent, still above the 6.8 percent low seen in December, but better than the 7.7 percent in January.

If firms convert part-time workers to full-time workers or draw in more discouraged people not now looking for work, that broad measure of labor slack might fall further without pushing down conventional measures of unemployment.

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At the same time, the unemployment rate held steady at 4.1%, which was higher than expectations with forecasts calling for a drop to 4.0%. The measure includes part-time workers who'd prefer a full-time position and people who want a job but aren't actively looking. Not to mention that amidst that whirl of job creation, some 800,000 people made a decision to get off the sidelines and join the labor force - the biggest reentry move in more than a decade. The participation rate, which reflects people who are working or looking for a job, registered its best one-month gain in almost eight years and is at 63%. But as stock investors correctly concluded last month, if wages start rising too fast given weak gains in worker productivity, it would probably prompt Mr. Powell and his colleagues to tap the brakes on the economy a little harder (that is, raise interest rates more than they would otherwise). Over the year, average hourly earnings have increased by 2.6 percent. The average workweek for all private employees increased to 34.5 hours, from 34.4 hours.

Hiring was strong across the board and particularly in goods-producing industries. Construction firms added 61,000 jobs, a figure that may have been inflated by relatively warm weather last month.

Pennsylvania's nonfarm jobs count decreased 6,300 from a record high in December to 5,987,300 in January, the first decline following nine consecutive monthly gains. Employment in the manufacturing sector, which is supported by strong domestic and global demand as well as a weaker dollar, rose by 31,000.

The public sector gained 26,000, with hiring added in education and at the state government level.

"Barring the truly unforeseen between now and then, the Federal Reserve remains set to raise interest rates at this month's meeting", he said.

BLS: Employment up 313000; unemployment rate unchanged