US Economy Kicks Off 2024 with a Bang: 353,000 Jobs Added in January


Last updated: February 7, 2024
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Courtesy of: https://hub.jhu.edu

The US economy started 2024 on a high note, adding a whopping 353,000 jobs in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This robust growth, stronger than anticipated, underscores the resilience of the US economy in an election year, keeping the unemployment rate steady at 3.7%.

Joe Brusuelas, chief economist at RSM US, hailed this as a “remarkable” achievement, noting that the unemployment rate has remained below 4% for 24 consecutive months, a first since 1967.

Despite fears that the Federal Reserve’s aggressive rate-hiking campaign would impact the labor market, the US job market has experienced one of its longest periods of expansion this century. This robust job growth has also dampened expectations of a Fed rate cut, with the probability for a March rate cut dropping from 38% to under 20%.

The job growth was widespread, with most major industries adding jobs. Private education and health services led the way with 112,000 job gains, followed by professional and business services and retail trade. The leisure and hospitality industry, hit hard at the start of the pandemic, is now just 0.4% away from reaching its pre-pandemic employment levels.

In Minneapolis, Jillian Hiscock, who is about to open a sports bar, received 150 applications for 25 to 30 open positions in just two days. This reflects the changing relationship people have with work post-pandemic, with many seeking a better work-life balance and meaningful work.

The January jobs report also revealed that 2023 was a banner year for job growth, with nearly 3.06 million jobs added, the highest annual jobs total since 1999. Wage gains also surprised, surging 0.6% for the month and 4.5% year-over-year.

The strong labor market has been the backbone of the surges in consumer spending and robust economic growth. Despite the strong economy, Americans have been mostly downbeat, although attitudes are improving. A new CNN poll showed that 35% of Americans believe things in the country are going well, up from 28% last fall.

Brusuelas believes the strong job market and wage growth should bury any recession fears. “This should put the last of the recession calls six feet under,” he said. “Improved productivity leads to improved number of jobs, better pay and rising living standards. It’s that mythical tide that lifts all boats.”

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