The United States economy
added 467,000 jobs in January, which was much higher than what economists had
projected, according to the Labor Department’s jobs report on Friday.
Economists had expected 150,000 new jobs to kick off 2022, while some cautioned there could be a loss of jobs due to the Omicron variant sweeping across the country. The unemployment rate, however, did raise to 4% from 3.9%, giving some credence to the notion that February’s report could paint a more complete picture of the labor market.
"The 467,000 gain in non-farm payrolls in January is even stronger than it looks, as it came despite the spike in absenteeism driven by the Omicron virus wave and was accompanied by significant upward revisions to the gains over the preceding couple of months,” Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist for Capital Economics, told Yahoo Finance. “The headline gain appears to make a mockery of our fears that Omicron would weigh heavily on the payrolls figures, with leisure and hospitality employment rising by a solid 151,000. Despite millions of workers having to self-isolate, there were also strong gains in professional and business services, retail and transportation and warehousing.”
Hourly wages also improved by 0.7% in January, making for a 5.7% gain year over year. Employment also rose by 86,000 among white-collar businesses, 61,000 at retailers and 54,000 in transportation and warehousing. The only industries to shed jobs were mining, construction and auto manufacturing.
Government revisions also indicate the labor force being stronger than previously reported, as the number of people who either have a job or were looking for one was an estimated 163.8 million in January, compared to 162.3 million at the end of 2021.
“The economic fallout from each successive wave of the pandemic has been smaller and smaller,” Nick Bunker, economic research director of Indeed Hiring Lab, told MarketWatch. “This trend, along with strong demand for workers, suggests 2022 could be a year with continued strong gains for the labor market.”