Economy added 304,000 jobs in January, despite longest government shutdown in history

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Feb. 1, 2019, 1:40 PM GMT

By Lucy Bayly

The economy added 304,000 jobs in January, according to data released Friday by the Bureau of Labor Statistics — far more than the 165,000 that economists had predicted.

The surge in hiring comes despite the longest government shutdown in U.S. history, mounting concern about a global economic slowdown, and a lack of key economic data being generated while some government agencies were not fully operational.

The nation’s unemployment rate ticked upward to 4 percent and wage growth held steady at 3.2 percent.

The shutdown appears to have had little impact on job growth, partly because President Donald Trump approved back pay for furloughed government workers, which means the 800,000 employees who worked without pay were still included in the jobs count.

One area of the employment data where the shutdown did have an impact was employees who turned to part-time work. The BLS considers furloughed employees to be “on temporary layoff,” so federal workers who were off the job were counted as unemployed — a contributing factor for the upward movement in the jobless rate.

The surge in people “working part-time for economic reasons is where the government shutdown shows most clearly,” said Martha Gimbel, director of economic research at Indeed. “Workers who were struggling financially may have had to take on part-time work to make ends meet.”

Feb. 1, 201903:27

The BLS issued a heavy downward revision for December’s job gains, from 312,000 to 222,000. However, the economy has still gained an average of 223,000 positions every month for the last year, with January marking the 100th straight month of additions to the labor force, underscoring a nine-year economic expansion.

“Despite the noise and uncertainty overall, the outlook remains for respectable full-year 2019 U.S. growth,” said Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst at Bankrate. “It remains to be seen how much concerns including U.S.-China trade tensions, Brexit, a slowing global economy and diminishing positive impacts of the federal tax cuts weigh on the expansion.”

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