Total nonfarm payroll employment beat all expectations on the Street, rising by an unbelievable 257,000 in January, and the unemployment rate — which remains controversial in how it is calculated — was little changed at 5.7%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

This is the first January in the last nine years to post job gains that beat expectations.

Job gains occurred in retail trade, construction, health care, financial activities, and manufacturing.

While coming layoffs in oil production are imminent, the energy sector slowdown showed no effect on January.

Analysts say this will no doubt add fuel to the fire for the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates sooner rather than later.

The unemployment rate, at 5.7%, changed little in January and has shown no net change since October. The number of unemployed persons, at 9.0 million, was little changed in January.

Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rate for teenagers (18.8%) increased in January. The jobless rates for adult men (5.3%), adult women (5.1%), whites (4.9%), blacks (10.3%), Asians (4.0%), and Hispanics (6.7%) showed little or no change.

In January, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was essentially unchanged at 2.8 million. These individuals accounted for 31.5% of the unemployed. Over the past 12 months, the number of long-term unemployed is down by 828,000.

After accounting for the annual adjustments to the population controls, the civilian labor force rose by 703,000 in January. The labor force participation rate rose by 0.2%age point to 62.9%, following a decline of equal magnitude in the prior month. Total employment, as measured by the household survey, increased by 435,000 in January, and the employment-population ratio was little changed at 59.3%.

In January, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls increased by 12 cents to $24.75, following a decrease of 5 cents in December. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.2%. 

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