Ahead of this morning’s report from the Labor Department, economists were predicting a slight slowing of job growth: 230,000 jobs added and an unchanged unemployment rate. Instead, the Employment Situation Summary showed an addition of 257,000 jobs, a slightly higher unemployment rate of 5.7 percent, and a solid increase in average hourly earnings of 12 cents. In addition, November and December‘s reports were revised upward for a combined total of 147,000 additional jobs, above what was reported.
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“The labor market recovery is finally hitting its stride,” says Gus Faucher, senior economist at PNC Bank, in an interview with CNNMoney. Faucher characterizes the slightly higher unemployment rate as good news, as well, saying that it’s “a sign of confidence in the job market.”
In fact, while the number of long-term unemployed was essentially unchanged last month at 2.8 million, the labor force grew by 703,000.
Wages were also up last month. Average hourly earnings for private, nonfarm workers increased to $24.75, a 12-cent jump from the previous month. The PayScale Index, which tracks the changes in wages for employed U.S. workers, forecasts a 1.7 percent increase in earnings for the first quarter of 2015.
Payrolls increased across retail trade (+46,000 jobs), construction (+39,000 jobs), health care (+38,000 jobs), financial activities (+26,000 jobs), manufacturing (+22,000 jobs), professional and technical services (+33,000 jobs), and food services and drinking places (+35,000 jobs). Employment was unchanged in mining and logging, information, government, wholesale trade, and transportation and warehousing.
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