U.S. factory activity accelerated to more than a two-year high in January amid sustained gains in new orders and raw material costs, pointing to a recovery in manufacturing as domestic demand strengthens and the drag from low oil prices ebbs.
U.S. employment increased less than expected in December but a rebound in wages pointed to sustained labor market momentum that sets up the economy for stronger growth and further interest rate increases from the Federal Reserve this year.
Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 156,000 in December, and the unemployment rate was little changed at 4.7%, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job growth occurred in health care and social assistance.
The unemployment rate, at 4.7 percent, and the number of unemployed persons, at 7.5 million, changed little in December. However, both measures edged down in the fourth quarter, after showing little net change earlier in the year.
While U.S. economic data broadly deteriorated through Q1, the lone bright spot was the labor market. Through the first three months of the year, U.S. Non-Farm Payrolls increased by a whopping 863,000 jobs, while other measures of economic activity including PMI surveys, retail sales, durable goods orders and inflation readings have all turned lower.
The unemployment rate in February fell to 5.5% and its lowest since May 2008. The headline jump of 295,000 for payrolls was the strongest gain since December and accompanied by a negative revision to the January report.