12 months ago • 2 mins
Friday’s job data showed the US economy added more jobs than expected last month.
What does this mean?
For a while the Federal Reserve (the Fed) put the kibosh on the kind of jumbo rate hikes that we witnessed last year – but Friday’s data will have the central bank on high alert once again. See, the Fed said last week that a return to a more aggressive stance was already in the cards, with the heaving labor market singled out as one key culprit – and Friday’s hot-to-touch jobs report only served to confirm the central bank’s worst fears. The US added 311,000 jobs last month, marking an eleventh-month streak of outstripped expectations. And while average earnings grew less than expected (good news for inflation), wages for non-management positions – most roles, in other words – had their biggest gain in three months.
Why should I care?
For markets: Up in the air.
The Fed will be scrutinizing the inflation and retail sales data due out this week, but this jobs leap has some economists convinced that a 0.5-percentage-point hike is already a done deal. Still, with a few factors muddying the waters, that’s not guaranteed: for one, more folk are returning to the workforce these days, which should ease supply shortages and help keep a lid on wages. And for another, the layoff era’s not going anywhere: in fact, the length of the average workweek just fell – a key omen, given that employers tend to cut hours first, staff second.
Zooming out: Keeping calm, carrying on.
The UK's not going down without a fight either. Data out on Friday showed the economy grew at an impressive 0.3% in January – three times faster than expected. That growth was mainly powered by services, with especially strong performances by education and entertainment. But while that might push aside recession fears for now, areas like manufacturing and construction still shrank – meaning the deeper problems haven’t disappeared.
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