Nation & World

U.S. economy adds 227,000 jobs in January

Unemployment rate ticks up to 4.8 percent

Workers stand on the assembly line for gas turbines at the General Electric energy plant in Greenville, South Carolina,
Workers stand on the assembly line for gas turbines at the General Electric energy plant in Greenville, South Carolina, on Jan. 10, 2017. MUST CREDIT: Bloomberg photo by Luke Sharrett.

WASHINGTON — The U.S. economy added 227,000 jobs in January, while the unemployment rate moved up to 4.8 percent, according to government data released Friday morning.

In January, average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by three cents to $26, following a six-cent increase in December. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 2.5 percent.

The first employment report since Donald Trump began his presidency showed the economy chugging along at a healthy pace.

Investors have looked kindly on Trump’s pledges to slash taxes, reduce regulations and pump money into infrastructure through tax credits, believing they are likely to boost economic growth. Stock markets have rallied since the election, with the blue-chip Dow Jones industrial average and the tech-heavy Nasdaq both gaining more than 5 percent, and the broader Standard & Poor’s 500-stock index rising 4.5 percent.

Since taking office two weeks ago, President Trump has delivered a whirlwind of executive orders banning entrants from seven majority-Muslim countries, freezing regulations and government hiring, and ordering federal agencies to loosen their enforcement of the Affordable Care Act, among other actions.

Tom Gimbel, CEO of the staffing and recruiting firm LaSalle Network, said he had seen expectations for Trump to benefit the business sector taper somewhat in recent weeks. But overall, companies remain positive about the direction of the economy and the policy changes Trump vows to make.

Mark Hamrick, senior economic analyst for Bankrate.com, said that business leaders are greeting some of the Trump administration policies with enthusiasm, but that they’ve also been thrust into an environment of greater uncertainty. Since the election, Trump has taken to Twitter to praise business leaders, as well as to criticize them for moving jobs overseas.

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“If you’re a CEO, you may be licking your chops anticipating reduced regulations. But on the other hand, you’re looking over your shoulder wondering if you’re going to be the next target of a tweet,” Hamrick said.

For workers, a strengthening economy also appears to be delivering wage gains. December showed the fastest wage growth in years, and analysts expected minimum-wage increases that went into effect in January to push worker pay up further.

Nineteen states introduced mandatory increases in wages paid to workers at or near the minimum wage, a change that affected millions of low-paid workers in fast-food, hotels and other industries. Economists agree that the change immediately will translate into wage growth for some of the poorest Americans but are divided over how the change could affect hiring.

Right now, 29 states and the District of Columbia requires companies to pay hourly wages higher than the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour.

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