All those worries about recession might have been premature.
The U.S. economy appears to be stronger than economists thought, adding 304,000 jobs in January despite the partial government shutdown that gripped the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This smashed Wall Street expectations for a 170,000 gain.
“The 304,000 surge in non-farm payrolls in January provides further evidence that economic growth remains solid and that the government shutdown had little impact,” said Andrew Hunter, senior U.S. economist at Capital Economics.
He added that while the Federal Reserve made it pretty clear this week that interest rates will remain on hold in the near term, there is still a “fair chance” of one more rate hike in the first half of this year if employment growth remains this strong.
The unemployment rate did tick up slightly from 3.9 percent to 4 percent, likely as a result of furloughed federal workers, but economists expect this to reverse in the coming months.
As for retail industry employment, excluding automobile dealers, gasoline stations and restaurants, it added 14,800 jobs in January, according to an analysis of the official figures by the National Retail Federation.
“January figures are always complicated to understand, given weather and holiday hiring along with the Labor Department’s annual benchmarking process of updating seasonal adjustment factors and population numbers,” said NRF chief economist Jack Kleinhenz. “Nonetheless, today’s numbers reinforce that the economy is in a good place and businesses are seeing demand for goods and services and consequently hiring more workers.”