US Suffers Biggest Job Losses In History Amid Pandemic

Roadworks continue, now with a facemask, as some essential jobs have kept segments of the population employed as the stay-at-home orders continue in Los Angeles, California on May 4, 2020. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP
Roadworks continue, now with a facemask, as some essential jobs have kept segments of the population employed as the stay-at-home orders continue in Los Angeles, California on May 4, 2020. Frederic J. BROWN / AFP

 

With shops and factories closed nationwide due to the coronavirus pandemic, nearly all of the jobs created in the US economy in the last decade were wiped out in a single month.

An unprecedented 20.5 million jobs were destroyed in April in the world’s largest economy, driving the unemployment rate to 14.7 percent compared to 4.4 percent in March, the Labor Department said in its monthly report, the first to capture the impact of a full month of the lockdowns.

The United States is home to the world’s largest and deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 75,000 fatalities and 1.2 million cases reported as of Thursday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The economic damage has been swift and stunning.

In the two years of the global financial crisis, the world’s largest economy lost 8.6 million jobs and the unemployment rate peaked at 10 percent in October 2009. During the recovery, from February 2010 to February 2020, 23 million positions were created.

The plunge in nonfarm payroll employment last month was the largest ever recorded dating back to 1939, while the jobless rate saw its highest and biggest increase dating back to 1948, the report said.

And job losses in March were worse than initially reported, falling 870,000 even though the business closures happened mostly in the second half of the month.

Employment fell sharply in all major industry sectors. Leisure and hospitality was the first sector hit and the one bearing the brunt of the impact of the lockdowns, and posted a loss of 7.7 million jobs.

However, the Labor Department noted that some workers were misclassified in the report as employed when they should have been counted as laid off. Had they been listed properly, the unemployment rate would have been nearly five percentage points higher.

‘Nowhere near peaking’

President Donald Trump said Friday the numbers were expected, and promised: “I’ll bring it back.”

“Our country is warriors and maybe now more than ever because they are going back to work,” he said on Fox News.

And even that double-digit rate underestimates the impact of the virus, since many employees are simply leaving the workforce altogether or have been forced into part-time work instead of full time.

The measure of the labor force as a share of the total population dropped to 51.3 percent, its lowest in history, while number of people not in the labor force who currently want a job nearly doubled to 9.9 million.

New claims for unemployment benefits remain at a staggering 33.5 million since mid-March, meaning the jobless rate could go much higher still.

“We knew it was bad out there but it is looking like it is even worse that we thought,” economist Joel Naroff said in his analysis prior to the release of the data.

“Now I am wondering if we will hit 40 million (jobs lost), which would take us to an unemployment rate of 25 percent or more. That is truly scary, as you have to go back to the early 1930s, during the Great Depression, to see anything nearly like that,” he said.

Despite nearly $3 trillion in financial aid approved by Congress in March alone and trillions more in liquidity provided by the Federal Reserve, there is a growing fear that the temporary shutdowns imposed to contain the spread of the virus will become permanent for many companies.

 

AFP

BBC To Terminate 450 Newsroom Jobs

(FILES) In this file photo taken on October 30, 2017 A general view of the headquarters of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) in London on October 30, 2017. The BBC will axe 450 jobs in its newsroom as part of plans to adapt “to changing audience needs” and meet its £80 million ($104 million, 95 million euro) savings target, the British broadcaster announced on January 29, 2020.
Daniel LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP

 

The BBC will axe 450 newsroom jobs as part of plans to adapt “to changing audience needs” and meet its savings target, the broadcaster announced on Wednesday.

“The BBC has to face up to the changing way audiences are using us,” Fran Unsworth, director of news and current affairs, said in a statement.

“We have to adapt and ensure we continue to be the world’s most trusted news organisation, but crucially, one which is also relevant for the people we are not currently reaching,” she added.

The British Broadcasting Corporation, which has an £80 million ($104 million, 95 million euro) savings target, said it was spending too much on “traditional linear broadcasting and not enough on digital”.

The “Victoria Derbyshire” morning show will be axed, with other job losses coming from a reduction in the number of films produced by flagship news programme “Newsnight”.

Other jobs will be lost at radio station 5 Live, and there will be a review of the number of presenters working for the broadcaster.

It noted that audiences for traditional television broadcasts continued to decline, especially amongst 16 to 34-year-olds.

“The BBC newsroom will be reorganised along a ‘story-led’ model, focusing on news stories more than on programmes or platforms,” said the statement.

“This is designed to reduce duplication and to ensure that BBC journalism is making as much impact as possible with a variety of audiences.”

Embattled BBC boss Tony Hall announced last week he would step down in six months’ time, as the corporation grapples with a damaging equal-pay ruling and questions over its funding model as new ways emerge to consume news and entertainment.

Hall, 68, who will depart after seven years at the helm, said the BBC needed new leadership ahead of negotiations with the government in the middle of the decade over its future funding and status.

Unsworth insisted that “Auntie”, as it is informally known in Britain, had “a vital role to play locally, nationally and internationally”.

“In fact, we are fundamental to contributing to a healthy democracy in the UK and around the world,” she added.

“If we adapt we can continue to be the most important news organisation in the world.”

AFP

Facebook To Boost Site Safety With 1,000 More UK Staff

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg delivers the opening keynote introducing new Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram privacy features at the Facebook F8 Conference at McEnery Convention Center in San Jose, California on April 30, 2019.  Amy Osborne / AFP

 

Facebook on Tuesday said it plans to create 1,000 more London-based jobs this year to improve safety on the social network with the aid of artificial intelligence.

The new roles will increase the number of staff at the company’s largest engineering hub outside the United States to more than 4,000.

“The UK is a world leader in both innovation and creativity. That’s why I’m excited that we plan to hire an additional 1,000 people in London this year alone,” said Facebook’s chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg.

She said that many of the new roles would help Facebook to “address the challenges of an open internet and develop artificial intelligence to find and remove harmful content more quickly.

“They will also help us build the tools that help small businesses grow, compete with larger companies and create new jobs.”

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson welcomed the move, saying that “the UK is successfully creating both homegrown firms at the forefront of cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence, whilst attracting established global tech giants like Facebook”.

AFP

Mexico Offers 4,000 Jobs To New Migrant Caravan

 

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador offered 4,000 jobs Friday to migrants in a new caravan currently crossing Central America toward the United States.

“We have more than 4,000 jobs along our southern border, and also migrant shelters. There is work in our country,” the leftist leader said at his daily news conference.

The caravan, which formed in Honduras this week and is making its way across Guatemala, currently has around 3,000 migrants, Lopez Obrador said.

According to Guatemala’s new President Alejandro Giammattei, Mexico has vowed to use “everything at its disposal” to stop them.

Mexico has come under pressure from President Donald Trump to slow a surge of undocumented migrants who arrived at the US-Mexican border last year.

Trump threatened in May to impose tariffs on Mexico if the government did not do more to stop them.

Cornered, Lopez Obrador’s administration deployed 27,000 National Guardsmen to tighten its borders and has allowed the United States to send more than 40,000 asylum-seekers back to Mexico while their cases are processed, under the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy.

Human Rights Watch accused Mexico Tuesday of violating migrants’ rights by failing to guarantee the security of those returned by the United States and detaining others in “inhumane conditions.”

Tens of thousands of Central American migrants crossed Mexico toward the United States last year in large caravans, fleeing chronic poverty and brutal gang violence and seeking safety in numbers from the dangers of the journey.

That prompted Trump to warn of an “invasion” and deploy nearly 6,000 US troops to the border.

US Job Creation Soars In November, Boosting Trump

US President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House October 21, 2019, in Washington, DC. Brendan Smialowski / AFP

 

US job creation soared last month as hospitals, hotels and schools raced to add new workers, a shot in the arm for Donald Trump’s economic stewardship as he faces impeachment and a bitter fight for reelection.

The surprise jump in hiring wiped away fears that November would be a lackluster month and suggested the American economy so far is holding up despite a global slowdown.

Payrolls also got a boost as autoworkers were back on the job after a six-week nationwide strike at General Motors plants, according to Labor Department data released Friday.

US firms added a massive 266,000 net new positions, shattering economists’ expectations, while the jobless rate fell a tenth of a point to 3.5 percent.

This matched the 50-year low set in September but the November drop was mainly because of a small decline in the workforce.

Job gains in September and October also were revised upward by a total of 41,000, underscoring the strength of labor markets.

“This is wild,” Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said in a note to clients, warning that a downward revision was possible.

Economists in recent days had begun to worry that America’s appetite for workers was on the wane, as some signs pointed to slackening demand for labor as well as a dwindling supply of workers.

But the continued hiring bonanza should bolster the Federal Reserve’s decision to keep the benchmark interest rate stable after three cuts this year, with central bankers believing more stimulus is unnecessary.

On Twitter, Trump hailed the “GREAT JOBS REPORT” while top White House economic aide Larry Kudlow said the numbers showed good times were getting better.

“The basic theme here: America is working,” he told CNBC.

 Job creation slowed in 2019 

Job creation has slowed this year, however, as employers on average have added 180,000 workers a month, down from the 223,000 average monthly gains in 2018.

Average hourly wages crept 0.2 percent higher compared to October, but that was slower than forecast. Compared to a year ago, however, the increase was 3.1 percent, well above the rate of consumer inflation.

The wage gains are unlikely to alter the Fed’s view, said economist Rubeela Farooqi of High Frequency economics.

“As for the Fed, these data should support the ‘on hold’ stance, at least for the time-being.” she said in an analysis.

Meanwhile, the dip in the jobless rate came with a drop in labor force as people left the job hunt or retired.

The mining and logging sector, which includes an oil industry hit by recent low prices, had another bad month, shedding 7,000 jobs.

There also were cuts in wholesale trade while retailers added a paltry 2,000 workers ahead of the holiday shopping period.

But good news far outweighed the bad. The numbers of people working part time for economic reasons, those not working or looking for work and those who had given up hope of finding a job were all down from their year-ago levels.

Economists say the strong labor market is almost single-handedly holding up the world’s largest economy, keeping workers optimistic and leaving them with money to spend.

This has helped offset persistent weakness in the manufacturing and agricultural sectors while businesses have slowed their investments, amid concerns about Trump’s multi-front trade wars.

Wall Street rose back into record territory on the jobs numbers, with the benchmark Dow Jones Industrial Average up about one percent shortly before 1600 GMT.

Buhari Vows To Create Jobs For Nigerians

Buhari Vows To Create Jobs For Nigerians
President Muhammadu Buhari meets with leadership of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) at the State House in Abuja on July 17, 2019.

 

 

President Muhammadu Buhari has said that his administration would leave no stone unturned in its bid to create jobs for Nigerians.

He stated this when he met with the leadership of the Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) on Wednesday at the State House in Abuja.

“Nigeria is a blessed country with abundant resources. We have all it takes locally to meet our most basic needs,” the President was quoted as saying in a statement by media adviser, Femi Adesina.

He added, “Our history of unnecessary importation of the most basic items meant we were exporting jobs to other countries at the expense of our own citizens. This administration is determined and taking steps to bring these jobs back to Nigeria.

“Our policies are simply designed for that. There is no doubt, the implementation of such policies will not be hitch-free. As you have pointed out, there are challenges in some areas that need to be addressed.

“I want to assure you that we are looking into these and other matters to ensure we have a sustainable platform for businesses to succeed.”

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The President explained that unnecessary importations into the country would be stopped in order to bring back jobs for Nigerians.

He insisted that his administration was focused on creating an enabling environment for Nigerian businesses to flourish by implementing various policies and programmes to support job creation.

President Buhari pointed out that the nation’s private sector has remained a platform for inclusive growth in the past four years.

According to him, his administration invested a lot of time and effort through the Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council to improve the Ease of Doing Business.

The President added that they implemented various policies and programmes to support job creation in agriculture, mining and other key sectors.

On job creation, he said, “This journey is a long one that requires patience, understanding and perseverance. I would, therefore, encourage you to continue to engage government by providing honest and constructive feedback. Together, we can build a Nigeria that we will all be proud of.

“On our part as an administration, I assure you that we will continue to do our best to support you in your efforts as Employers of labour and vital institutions in our country.”

President Buhari thanked the group for the visit and the association for its contributions to the nation since inception in 1957.

Ford To Slash 12,000 Jobs Across Europe

Employees of car manufacturer Ford hold a banner while taking part in a warning strike in Cologne, western Germany.  AFP

 

US carmaker Ford said Thursday that it plans to slash a total of 12,000 jobs across Europe as part of a previously announced restructuring.

The overall figure includes 5,400 layoffs already announced in Germany and 1,700 in Wales.

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The move comes as the company closes or sells six plants in Britain, France, Russia and Slovakia this year and next.

The job cuts will come “primarily through voluntary separation programmes”, said Ford, which employs around 51,000 people and operates 24 factories around Europe.

As well as the factory closure in Wales, three sites in Russia, one in Slovakia and one in France will be shuttered.

Thursday is the first time Ford has publicly stated the jobs impact of its plans.

Group chief executive Jim Hackett announced last autumn a massive restructuring of the American firm, aiming to save $11 billion and turn Ford into a more “agile” group with faster decision-making processes.

The company aims to catch up with the world leaders in the industry’s transformation towards autonomous and electric-powered driving, as well as services like car-sharing and ride-sharing.

Ford says that “financial results in Europe are on track to significantly improve for the full year 2019”, adding that in future it will refocus on electric mobility.

Its European operations will be reorganised into three divisions: commercial vehicles, passenger vehicles, and imports.

“This could be the first step towards a complete or partial sale” of Ford’s car business in Europe, industry expert Ferdinand Dudenhoeffer of the University of Duisburg-Essen’s CAR institute told AFP.

AFP

Nigeria’s Labour Leaders Call For Mass Creation Of Decent Jobs

Nigeria’s Labour Leaders Call For Mass Creation Of Decent Jobs

 

Labour leaders in the country have called for mass creation of decent jobs for Nigerians, especially the young generation.

The leaders of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and the Trade Union Congress (TUC) made the call during a rally on Monday in Abuja, the nation’s capital.

They said there was a need to create decent jobs for youths in the country, noting that it would go a long way in reducing the incidences of crime.

READ ALSONLC, TUC ‘March For Jobs’ In Abuja

The labour leaders used the march as an opportunity to call government’s attention to the rising cases of unemployment, de-industrialisation of the economy, and what they described as the near-collapse of social support institutions.

They also demanded that the government increased efforts at eradicating unemployment and supporting social institutions.

The demonstrators, however, warned that mass jobs without decent remunerations would be counter-productive.

They asked employers of labour in the private and public sectors of the country to immediately begin the full implementation of the new national minimum wage.

NLC, TUC 'March For Jobs' In Abuja

 

Part of a statement signed by the Chairman of the 2019 May Day Preparatory Committee, Najeem Yasin, read, “The consequence of mass unemployment in our country, especially youth unemployment is finding expression daily on our streets and communities in the form of increasing crime wave.

“It is high time we arrested this dangerous drift before it consumes all of us. As we march today, we call on government, employers in the private sector, international development partners and local social actors to come together to plot a way out of this cauldron.

“We call on government to rehabilitate public roads, power supply, railways, inland waterways, schools, and hospitals as enabling infrastructure for mass industrialisation and mass job creation.

“Whatever the government does; now is the time to create mass decent jobs for our teeming youth.

“Mass jobs without decent remunerations would be counter-productive. We call on all employers of labour to quickly commence the implementation of the new national minimum wage of N30,000.

“The Nigeria Labour movement will keep a hawk’s eye on all employers of labour, especially state governments to ensure total compliance on the implementation of the new national minimum wage.”

The labour leaders held the march in preparation of Workers Day which is marked on May 1 annually.

The event also coincides with the centenary celebration of the existence of the International Labour Organisation (ILO).

Lagos Adds 740,146 Jobs In 12 Months

Lagos Adds 740,146 Jobs In 12 Months

 

A total of 740, 146 jobs were added in Lagos State between July 2017 and June 2018, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) has revealed.

The agency made the disclosure in a report released recently after a survey it conducted, noting that the number of job creation recorded in Lagos was the highest in the country.

According to the report, only nine states were able to reduce unemployment and underemployment rates between the third quarter of 2017 and the corresponding quarter in 2018.

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They include Akwa Ibom, Enugu, Imo, Kaduna, Kogi, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ondo and Rivers, while six states also recorded the highest gains in net full-time employment between Q3 2017 and Q2 2018.

The states are Lagos which added a total of 740,146 net full-time jobs, Rivers (235,438), Imo (197,147), Ondo (142,514), Enugu (122,333), and Kaduna (118,929).

According to the NBS, people often move from state to state seeking job opportunities.

It said this could create a false impression of the status of states at a particular time by reducing the unemployment figures in some states and increasing it in other states.

The report read, “States with a higher propensity for women to be housewives or stay home husbands or that have negative attitudes to working tend to have lower unemployment rates, as they are not considered part of the labour force in the first place.

“These states tend to have a higher proportion of their economically active population outside the labour force, thereby reducing the number looking for work and hence the number that can be unemployed.”

Out of the five states with the highest unemployed population, Lagos also recorded the lowest rate of 14.6% during the period under reference.

Over 3,000 Jobs At Stake As Honda Plans Shutting UK Plant

Workers wait for the launch of the first British built Honda Jazz family supermini to leave the production line at the Honda car plant in Swindon, western England. Max NASH / AFP

 

Honda announced Tuesday it would shut a major plant in Britain, putting 3,500 jobs at risk as the auto manufacturer became the latest Japanese firm to downsize operations as Brexit looms.

The factory in Swindon, southwest England, is Honda’s only EU plant and has produced the manufacturer’s “Civic” model for more than 24 years, with 150,000 units rolling off the line annually.

The plant will shut in 2021, Honda announced, “at the end of the current model’s production lifecycle”.

The decision “has not been taken lightly and we deeply regret how unsettling today’s announcement will be for our people,” said Katsushi Inoue, chief officer for European regional operations, in a statement.

The firm blamed “unprecedented changes in the global automotive industry” for the decision but it comes amid investment uncertainty in Britain ahead of the country’s exit from the EU.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Honda president Takahiro Hachigo said: “I’d like you to understand this is not related to Brexit.”

He said it was “very regrettable” to have to close the plant but said it was the “best choice” given the need to reduce production capacity and reform its global facilities.

READ ALSO: Nigerian Ambassador To Ethiopia Warns Travellers Against Carrying Over $3000

The firm also announced it would stop manufacturing the Civic model in Turkey in 2021.

Honda joins fellow car giant Nissan as well as Japanese firms Sony, Panasonic and Hitachi in scaling back operations in Britain ahead of the country’s departure from the European Union.

Analysts say that while Brexit was almost certainly a factor for Honda, other reasons were likely to have played a part, including a massive EU-Japan free-trade agreement recently signed and the wider struggles of the car industry.

“Honda seems to have been preparing for this for a long time. Then Brexit happened, which might have pushed the company to make the decision now,” Seiji Sugiura, an analyst at Tokai Tokyo Research Institute, told AFP.

Speaking ahead of the formal decision, local finance worker Sue Davis, 49, told AFP the move would be “devastating” for the area.

“I think Swindon’s finished without Honda. My ex-husband works there, has done for 20 years. He’s going to be without a job, so I just think it’s really, really bad news.”

Local MP Justin Tomlinson tweeted ahead of Tuesday’s announcement that the decision had been made “based on global trends and not Brexit as all European market production will consolidate in Japan in 2021”.

– ‘Just in time’ –

Earlier this month, Nissan axed production of the X-Trail SUV in the Brexit-backing northeast city of Sunderland, despite government assurances over the consequences from the EU exit.

Nissan Europe chairman Gianluca de Ficchy said then that the cuts were made “for business reasons” but admitted that “the continued uncertainty around the UK’s future relationship with the EU is not helping companies like ours to plan for the future.”

Auto giant Toyota also warned in February there would be no way to avoid a negative impact in the event of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.

Toyota executive vice-president Shigeki Tomoyama noted that the firm’s assembly plant in Burnaston, central England, which produces 600 vehicles per day, operates under the “just-in-time” system that relies on a smooth flow of components from the EU.

“We will have to halt the plant if the car parts are not brought in” from the continent, Tomoyama warned.

Japanese electronics giants Sony and Panasonic, as well as several banks, have moved some of their operations out of Britain since the 2016 referendum that set Brexit in motion.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pleaded against a no-deal Brexit in recent talks with his British and German counterparts, telling Theresa May last month: “We truly hope that a no-deal Brexit will be avoided and in fact this is the… wish of the whole world.”

And Japanese officials have reportedly become frustrated with their British counterparts as they negotiate a potential post-Brexit trade deal.

Britain is due to leave the EU on March 29, but its parliament last month rejected a draft divorce deal May negotiated with the bloc, prompting fears the country could crash out without an agreement next month.

bur-ric/sah/mtp

Thousands Protest Against Job Losses In South Africa

Mob Burns Nigerian To Death In South Africa

 

Thousands of South African workers staged nationwide demonstrations on Wednesday to protest high unemployment and government policies that they say have failed to create jobs and are deepening poverty.

Workers dressed in red t-shirts, showing their loyalty to the trade union movement, gathered in the southeastern port city of Durban, Johannesburg and other locations for open-air rallies three months ahead of the country’s general election.

Companies in South Africa, notably in the mining sector, have shed tens of thousands of jobs in recent years in what unions have termed a “jobs bloodbath” as the economy of Africa’s most industrialised nation struggles for growth.

READ ALSO: Teacher Accused Of Racism Reinstated In South Africa

South Africa has a near-record 27 per cent unemployment rate, with trade unions saying 9.3 million employable people need jobs.

Zingiswa Losi, president of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), led the main march in Durban, which was attended by about 6,000 people.

“Today’s march is a national strike and we are marching to (say to the) government and the private sector, we cannot afford to lose jobs in this country,” Losi told reporters at the start of the demonstration.

About 2,000 people attended the Johannesburg rally.

Official statistics released on Tuesday showed that the unemployment rate dropped marginally to 27.1 per cent in the last quarter of 2018 from 27.5 per cent in the previous quarter.

The drop was largely due to casual workers hired over the Christmas holiday period.

South Africa’s economy grew less than one per cent last year and is currently in the grip of its worst electricity cuts in years.

The continent’s largest energy utility Eskom, which has been plagued by debt and mismanagement, plunged the country into darkness this week with rotating black-outs imposed as demand outstripped supply.

COSATU has been a key ally of the ruling ANC party, which is seeking to revive its flagging popularity ahead of elections on May 8, when President Cyril Ramaphosa is expected to retain power.

AFP

US Job Growth Surges In January Despite Government Shutdown

The sign of jobs is seen on the front of the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC. AFP

 

US job creation had another blockbuster month in January, blowing past the government shutdown, but that disruption helped to push the unemployment rate higher, the Labor Department reported Friday.

Employers added 304,000 net new positions last month — the highest in nearly a year and almost double what economists had predicted — while growth in worker pay held steady just above inflation, according to the report.

The new numbers were welcome news for President Donald Trump, whose already-low public approval rating suffered in the wake of the longest government shutdown in US history.

“Those numbers were very impressive,” he said at the White House. “Other countries in other areas are not doing well and we are doing fantastically well.”

The construction, health care, hospitality and retail sectors added tens of thousands of workers, another sign that the robust labour market remains a fundamental source of strength with the US economy expected to slow in 2019.

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However, the five-week government shutdown — the result of an impasse between the president and Congress over his plans for a wall on the US-Mexico border — was at least partly responsible for an uptick in the jobless rate to 4.0 per cent, the highest in seven months.

And hiring in December was revised sharply downward to a still-strong 222,000, but far lower than the 312,000 positions initially reported.

While the partial shutdown of the federal government between December and January idled 800,000 government workers, the Labor Department still counted furloughed employees — who would receive back pay — as employed, leaving the monthly job creation numbers unaffected.

 Shutdown boosts unemployment 

But the shutdown was also a driver of the rise in the unemployment rate since the separate survey of households used to determine the joblessness counted furloughed workers as well as contractors as unemployed.

Meanwhile, the increase in unemployment also was the result of more workers coming off the sidelines to join the job hunt.

That increased the size of the labour force, driving the closely watched labour force participation rate up to 63.2 per cent, its highest level in more than five years.

The shutdown also drove about a half million people into part-time work, swelling this group to 5.1 million, its highest level in 16 months.

Hourly pay grew a token 0.1 per cent over December but was up 3.2 per cent over January of last year, well above consumer inflation of 1.9 per cent in the same period, leaving American workers with greater purchasing power.

Employment in leisure and hospitality grew by 74,000 jobs for the month, with restaurants and bars adding 32,000, while construction added 52,000 workers and hospitals and ambulatory care centres together added about 41,000 net new positions.

Economists said the robust job growth was likely more than strong enough to keep the unemployment rate heading downward.

This could put pressure on the Federal Reserve to resume raising interest rates later this year, even though markets now expect no more Fed hikes this year.

Wall Street breathed a sigh of relief this month as policymakers sent strong signals they intended to pause, meaning investors could be in for an unwelcome surprise.

“We expect the labour market to gradually cool in 2019 but the combination of solid payroll gains, rising wages and the falling unemployment rate will continue,” Oxford Economics said in a client note.

“Barring further tightening in financial conditions that would negatively impact economic activity, the very strong labour market picture supports our expectations that the Fed will keep a tightening bias this year.”

Wall Street rose following the report, with stocks boosted by the jobs numbers and a rosy report on activity in the US manufacturing sector.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 0.4 per cent shortly before 1800 GMT.

AFP