Throughout the month of January, the U.S. economy added 151,000 jobs while the unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent, which is the lowest we’ve seen since February 2008. Though many economists consider a 5% rate “full employment”—a condition in which virtually all who are able and willing to work are employed—these numbers still fall short of analysts’ expectations by 46,000 jobs.
Job gains occurred in several industries, led by retail trade (+57,700), food services (+47,000), manufacturing (+29,000), and health care (+37,000) with most of the increase occurring in hospitals. Employment declined in private educational services (-39,000), mining (-7,000), and transportation and warehousing (-20,000). In addition, government payrolls fell by 7,000 last month.
While the economy added 2.65 million jobs last year, many Americans say they don’t feel the impact. And even though employers have been hiring at a healthy pace, they have only sparingly handed out substantial raises.
With full employment in sight, some say that we should expect the job growth rate to slow simply because the number of people available for hire can only grow in line with population growth. However, we should also consider that the four-week average of people filing for unemployment claims has increased since October. And with a number of popular retailers planning to close dozens of stores in the upcoming year, thousands will be left in search of work.
Even though millions of people had lost their jobs during the 2008 recession, we’ve experienced positive re-employment at a fairly steady rate with 4.9 million jobs having been added since. It’s hard to say what we can expect in the upcoming months but we can all agree that we’ve made monumental strides in the last 8 years.