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U.S. economy adds 353,000 jobs in January

Published 02/02/2024, 08:33 AM
Updated 02/02/2024, 12:03 PM
© Reuters

Investing.com -- The U.S. economy added far more jobs than expected in January, pointing to lingering strength in the labor market that could bolster the case for the Federal Reserve to delay cutting interest rates.

Nonfarm payrolls in the world's largest economy rose by 353,000 last month, increasing from an upwardly revised total of 333,000 in December, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists had called for a reading of 187,000.

December's revision -- a sharp uptick from the prior mark of 216,000 -- was the result of an annual benchmarking process as well as seasonal adjustment factors, the BLS said in a statement.

Job gains in sectors like professional and business services, health care and retail helped offset a drop in employment in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction.

The January unemployment rate was 3.7%, matching the prior month. Meanwhile, average hourly earnings grew by 0.6% month-on-month, accelerating from 0.4% in December and faster than projections of 0.3%.

"The blowout January jobs report – payrolls surging, wages jumping, unemployment falling – means the [Fed] will be in no hurry to cut interest rates," analysts at ING wrote. 

Fed officials have been on the lookout for signs of moderation in job demand, which in theory could help deflate wage expansion and subsequent upward pressure on inflation. For that reason, the strong January figures may influence how the central bank approaches possible interest rate cuts in the coming months.

Earlier this week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell played down expectations for an early spring reduction, saying that such a scenario was not his "base case." He added that further evidence of cooling price gains was needed before the Fed could begin to contemplate cuts.

The comments came after the Fed held rates at a more than two-decade high range of 5.25% to 5.50%, but removed language from its official statement regarding the possibility of additional hikes if necessary.

Markets have since recalibrated their bets for cuts this year, with the CME Group's Fed Watch Tool now showing a roughly 56% chance that the Fed will first slash rates by 25 basis points in May. Hopes, fueled by suprisingly dovish Fed commentary near the end of last year, were previously high that a reduction could come as soon as March.

"The January employment report pushes a March rate cut further off the table and makes May less likely," analysts at Citi said in a note to clients.

Following Friday's data, stocks were broadly in the green and an index tracking the U.S. dollar against a basket of other currencies climbed. Both the rate-sensitive 2-year U.S. Treasury yield and the benchmark 10-year yield, which typically move inversely to prices, also rose.

 

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