Investing.com — The U.S. economy added far more jobs than expected in January, pointing to lingering strength in the labor market that could bolster the case for the Federal Reserve to delay cutting interest rates.
in the world’s largest economy rose by 353,000 last month, increasing from an upwardly revised total of 333,000 in December, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Economists had called for a reading of 187,000.
December’s revision — a sharp uptick from the prior mark of 216,000 — was the result of an annual benchmarking process as well as seasonal adjustment factors, the BLS said in a statement.
Job gains in sectors like professional and business services, health care and retail helped offset a drop in employment in mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction.
The January was 3.7%, matching the prior month. Meanwhile, grew by 0.6% month-on-month, accelerating from 0.4% in December and faster than projections of 0.3%.
Fed officials have been on the lookout for signs of moderation in job demand, which in theory could help deflate wage expansion and subsequent upward pressure on inflation. For that reason, the blowout January figures may influence how the central bank approaches possible interest rate cuts in the coming months.
Earlier this week, Fed Chair Jerome Powell played down expectations for an early spring reduction, saying that such a scenario was not his “base case.” He added that further evidence of cooling price gains was needed before the Fed could begin to contemplate cuts.
The comments came after the Fed held rates at a more than two-decade high range of 5.25% to 5.50%, but removed language from its official statement regarding the possibility of additional hikes if necessary.
Markets have since recalibrated their bets for cuts this year, with the CME Group’s Fed Watch Tool now showing a roughly 60% chance that the Fed will first slash rates by 25 basis points in May. Hopes, fueled by suprisingly dovish Fed commentary near the end of last year, were previously high that a reduction could come as soon as March.
Following Friday’s data, stock futures were mixed and an index tracking the U.S. dollar against a basket of other currencies climbed. Both the rate-sensitive 2-year U.S. Treasury yield and the benchmark 10-year yield, which typically move inversely to prices, also rose.