The January jobs report is out, and it’s mostly good. On Friday morning, the Labor Department reported that the U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs and that unemployment is at 4.9 percent.
While the number of jobs added missed expectations (economists surveyed by The Wall Street Journal were expecting 185,000), this is the first time the unemployment rate has dipped below 5 percent since February 2008. In the last 12 months, the number of unemployed Americans decreased by 1.1 million.
The question on everyone’s mind leading up to the January jobs report has been whether the kind of growth seen in the last few months of 2015 is sustainable. 2015 was one of the best years for U.S. job growth since 1999, with a monthly average of 221,000 jobs added. The January jobs-added number represents a slowdown in growth, which was somewhat expected. But combined with the unemployment rate, it shows that growth at the moment is modestly strong. In other words, it’s not great, but it's far from terrible.
The Labor Department reported that last month’s increases were led by hiring in the sectors of retail, food services, health care, and manufacturing. Employment in educational services, transportation, warehousing, and mining declined.