To cap off what may have been the best week of Donald Trump’s presidency, the January jobs report showed strong employment and wage growth, along with a significant rise in the labor-force-participation rate.
Nonfarm payroll jobs increased by 225,000, easily beating expectations, while average hourly earnings increased by 3.1 percent year over year. The headline unemployment rate ticked up from 3.5 percent to 3.6 percent, but that was mostly because the participation rate rose to its highest level since 2013.
Meanwhile, the overall employment-to-population (EPOP) ratio reached its highest level since 2008, and the EPOP ratio among prime-age workers (those aged 25 to 54) reached its highest level since 2001.
To be sure, the U.S. economy benefited from unseasonably mild weather last month, and the coronavirus outbreak will take a toll on economic output around the world. Also, the Bureau of Labor Statistics now estimates that America had 501,000 fewer nonfarm payroll jobs as of March 2019 than previously thought.
And of course, we continue to suffer from an affordability crisis in areas such as housing, higher education, health care, and child care.
Still, given that January marked the 127th month of our current economic expansion (which began in June 2009), the latest jobs report is greatly encouraging.
“This is, by many measures, the best environment for workers in years,” writes Ben Casselman of the New York Times. “Employers are hiring candidates with disabilities, criminal records and other barriers to employment, and are offering flexible schedules and other perks to draw workers off the sidelines. Wages are rising fastest for people at the bottom of the earnings ladder.”
All of that is worth celebrating.