Strong Job Growth Continues in January


The U.S. economy entered 2019 with a strong gain in payroll employment. Total employment increased by 304,000 in January, while the unemployment rate edged up to 4.0%, reflecting the impact of the partial government shutdown.

Residential construction employment increased by 23,900 at the beginning of 2019, the largest gain since February 2018. The total construction industry (both residential and nonresidential) added 52,000 jobs in January.

According to the Employment Situation Summary for January released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 304,000, the largest monthly gain since February 2018. The December increase was revised down to 222,000 jobs, from its original estimate of a 312,000 increase. Over the past twelve months, total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 2.8 million with the average monthly growth of 234,000.

In January, the unemployment rate edged up to 4.0% amid the partial government shutdown. The number of persons employed decreased by 251,000 in January while the number of persons unemployed increased by 241,000. The increase in the unemployment rate largely reflected the increase in the number of persons unemployed. Among these unemployed, the number of persons who are on temporary layoff increased sharply by 175,000. According to the definitions used in the Household Survey, workers should be counted as unemployed on a temporary layoff because they did not work at all during the reference week. The impact of the partial government shutdown mainly accounted for the January decrease in the unemployment rate.

Meanwhile, the labor force participation rate, the proportion of the population either looking for a job or already with a job, increased by 0.1 percentage point to 63.2% in January.

Monthly employment data released by the BLS Establishment Survey indicates that employment in the overall construction sector rose by 52,000 in January. The number of residential construction jobs rose by 23,900 in January, the largest gain since February 2018.

Residential construction employment now stands at 2.9 million in January, broken down as 835,000 builders and 2.1 million residential specialty trade contractors. The 6-month moving average of job gains for residential construction is 11,133 a month. Over the last 12 months, home builders and remodelers added 130,700 jobs on a net basis. Since the low point following the Great Recession, residential construction has gained 916,600 positions.

In January, the unemployment rate for construction workers rose to 4.7% on a seasonally adjusted basis, from the 4.6% in December. The unemployment rate for the construction sector has been trending downwards since February 2010 and remains historically low.


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