Restaurant job growth surged again last month

Muriel Colon
February 4, 2019

If they were, the Bureau of Labor Statistics said the unemployment rate for the month of January would have been higher. Stocks on Wall Street rose, while U.S. Treasury prices fell. Nevertheless, the final January data should continue to reflect a healthy labor market.

It was boosted by a 500,000 increase in the number of people working part time, likely because of the government shutdown. The BLS also indicated that almost all of this increase was in the private sector and may reflect the impact of the partial federal government shutdown. Over the past year, the nation's eateries have increased employment by 2.4%, including 0.3% in January alone. "I find it hard to believe there won't be some revision to this number next month". Regardless, January was the 11th consecutive month that the unemployment rate has been at or below four percent. The report contains data from two surveys: the Current Employment Survey (CES) and the Current Population Survey (CPS). It is calculated from the household survey (the one where the Labor Department goes door-to-door). Construction has added 338,000 jobs over the past 12 months.

Despite the Trump administration's ongoing trade war with China, the manufacturing sector also added 13,000 jobs.

With key data from the Commerce Department, including the fourth-quarter gross domestic product report, still delayed because of the government shutdown, the employment report is the clearest sign that the economy remains on solid ground.

Different methodologies for these complementary reports treat similarly situated individuals differently in some circumstances.


The healthcare sector was undeterred by the government shutdown that went on for most of January, making 41,600 new hires last month and almost 20,000 more new hires as compared to January 2018. Hours and earnings data do not include government workers and would not be directly affected by the shutdown.

Numerous remaining furloughed federal employees were classified as "employed but absent from work", so those employees were not counted in the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate rose from 3.9% to 4% due to federal employees who were furloughed by the government shutdown being counted as unemployed.

The BLS also showed that the number of people employed part-time for economic reasons, the involuntary part-time workers, rose by roughly one-half million to 5.1 million in January.

"It's the very strength of that economy and the abundance of job openings that is pulling more individuals back into the labor force", Jim Baird, partner and chief investment officer for Plante Moran Financial Advisors, said in a note. That compared to an 85-cent increase at 3.2 percent over the year. However, general merchandise stores - which saw a surge in hiring in last month's report - lost more than 12,000 jobs, with department stores suffering a almost 3,000 decline in jobs.

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