U.S. economy added 225,000 jobs in January

(CN) – American employers beat expectations and added 225,000 jobs last month, while the unemployment rate rose slightly from a 50-year low as more people entered the labor force.

The number of new positions in January is well above expert predictions of about 165,000. The economy has averaged 211,000 new jobs in the last three months, up from the same time period a year ago.

Nick Bunker, an economist at Indeed Hiring Lab, said the current economic expansion’s “ability to pull more and more workers into the labor force is astounding.”

“This recovery is more than a decade old, and the continued gains in employment is a sign that it can continue for quite some time,” he wrote.

The unemployment rate ticked up to 3.6%, rising just above the 50-year low of 3.5% seen in December, according to a Labor Department report released Friday. The increase was due to 574,000 more people joining the work force and not all of them finding jobs.

“The slight increase in the unemployment rate might seem concerning, but it is actually due to a pick up in workers reentering the labor market,” Bunker said. “All signs point to a further pick up in this rate if the labor market continues to grow.”

The monthly jobs report comes three days after President Donald Trump touted the strength of the U.S. economy at his State of the Union address. The Democrats who want to replace him in the Oval Office argue that the economy is only benefiting the wealthy.

Average hourly wages rose modestly with a 3.1% increase over this time last year and currently stand at $28.44 an hour.

Elise Gould, senior economist at the nonprofit think tank Economic Policy Institute, said stronger participation in the labor force isn’t translating into higher wages.

“Overall, wage growth is still slower than expected in an economy that has had historically low unemployment and remains the most important indicator to watch in 2020,” she said.

Health care employers added 47,200 positions in January while the construction sector gained 44,000 jobs, an increase attributable to unseasonably warm weather. Leisure and hospitality companies, mainly restaurants and hotels, added 36,000. There were also 19,000 more government jobs last month.

The manufacturing industry lost 12,000 jobs, while retail shed 8,300 positions.

Friday’s jobs report also included some substantial downward revisions for past numbers. The number of new positions added in all of 2018 was revised from 2.7 million to 2.3 million. The total for February 2019 was also changed from 56,000 to only 1,000 new jobs.