The Employment Situation in January – Status Quo Good


The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its Employment Situation report for January including the standard annual revisions to earlier years. The revisions include benchmarking payroll employment counts to reflect more comprehensive counts, affecting data from April 2015 forward, and updated seasonal adjustment factors, affecting data from January 2012 forward. Historical data from the household survey is not revised but the January figures incorporate updated population estimates. This adjustment affects the comparability of the December vs January data and the BLS publishes a special table detailing the effects.

The effect of the revisions and adjustments was minor. The change in total nonfarm employment over 2016 was from 2.157 million to 2.242 million, the average monthly change was from 180 thousand to 187 thousand. Adjustments to the household survey lowered the population count and all categories of the labor force (e.g., employed, unemployed, etc.) but left ratios (e.g., unemployment and labor force participation rates, etc.) unaffected.

Payroll employment expanded by 227 thousand in January, the unemployment rate ticked up to 4.8% and average hourly earnings for all employees (on private payrolls) rose by 2.5% over the prior 12 months, all consistent with recent trends. The labor force participation rate move up 0.2 percentage point to 62.9%.

This is a solid report for January, with no surprises in the revisions. Status quo good.


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