Employment surges in January lead by construction jobs increase

Average hourly earnings increase at fastest pace since 2009

Jobs increased in January, lead in part by gains in construction employment, according to the latest release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 200,000 jobs in January, according to the report. This is lower than ADP and Moody’s Analytics’ predicted increase of 234,000, but up from the increase of 148,000 jobs in December, which was later revised up to a gain of 160,000 jobs.

“The labor market started the year strong,” Fannie Mae Chief Economist Doug Duncan said. “The January nonfarm payroll gain of 200,000 was nearly 20,000 more than the average monthly gain in 2017.”

But one expert pointed out while it was down from ADP’s predicted growth, it was above the consensus estimate.

“The stronger 200,000 gain in non-farm payrolls in January, which was above the consensus estimate but exactly in line with our own forecast, leaves the Fed firmly on track to raise rates at the next FOMC meeting in March, particularly with signs that wage pressures are starting to build,” Capital Economics Economist Andrew Hunter said.

The increase was led by an uptick in construction, food services and drinking places, health care and manufacturing.

Here are some of the areas which showed major changes in December:

  • Employment in Construction increased 36,000
  • Employment in food services and drinking places increased 31,000
  • Employment in health care increased by 21,000
  • Manufacturing increased by 15,000

“This month, residential construction jobs increased to a level of 772,000,” First American Chief Economist Mark Fleming said. “That’s an increase of 5,000 jobs from December 2017 to January 2018.”

“Yet, the number of residential construction jobs is only a modest 1.3% above the level a year ago,” Fleming said. “As I have mentioned before, the ability to build more homes is strongly related to the size of the construction labor force. It’s hard to build homes without home builders.”

Employment in other major industries, including mining, wholesale trade, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, information, financial activities, professional and business services and government, changed little over the month.

“The January jobs report was solid,” said Curt Long, National Association of Federally Insured Credit Unions chief economist. “The addition of 200,000 jobs is encouraging, although downward revisions to prior months are a mitigating factor.”

“But the big news was a solid increase in wage growth to 2.9%, which is the high-water mark for the recovery,” Long said. “This provides even more ammunition for the Fed to raise rates next month.”

The average workweek for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls decreased by 0.2 hours to 34.3 hours in January.

But despite this decrease, the average hourly earnings for these employees went up, rising an average $0.09 to $26.74 per hour. This follow’s December’s $0.11 gain.

But despite these increases in wages, one expert claims it is simply not enough.

“Although the U.S. job market continues to be healthy, the real story when it comes to homeownership is what's happening with wages,” Senior Economist Joseph Kirchner said. “We aren't seeing the wage growth we should be given the steady unemployment and strong GDP.”

“Last year, wages grew 2.3%, and historically wages have grown in the range of 3.5% to 4% during comparable periods of low unemployment,” Kirchner said. “Affordability will continue to be a major hurdle for this spring's home buyers as housing prices continue to increase.”

However another expert said just the opposite, claiming accelerating wages were the best news in January’s jobs report.

“The best news from the January jobs report is accelerating wages, which rose 2.9% from a year ago,” said Lawrence Yun, National Association of Realtors chief economist. “The continuing job growth of 200,000 in January, and 2.1 million over the past 12 months, have kept the economy at essentially full employment. It is now to the point where employers have to offer higher wages to attract new employees.”

And another expert agreed January showed positive wage growth with the highest annual increase since 2009.

“In this morning’s jobs report we see some good news for the housing market both in terms of demand and supply,” Redfin Senior Economist Taylor Marr said. “After almost 10 years of stagnant wage growth, average hourly earnings increased 2.9% from last year.”

“This was the biggest wage increase since 2009, and a welcome one for consumers for whom rents and home prices have grown much faster than wages since 2000,” Marr said. “On the supply side, wages also grew by 2.9% year over year for construction workers in January, and hiring was up slightly from December, both much-needed changes to help attract construction workers to create more supply.”

The unemployment rate remained unchanged at 4.1% in January and the number of unemployed persons remained at 6.7 million.

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