By msnbc.com news services
The U.S. economy created jobs at the fastest pace in nine months in January and the unemployment rate dropped to a near three-year low, offering a hopeful sign for hiring in the year ahead.
Employers added a net 243,000 jobs last month, the Labor Department reported Friday — that’s the most since April and far better than economists’ expectations for a gain of only 150,000.
“It’s a strong number, a very strong number, I would say,” said Vassili Serebriakov, a currency strategist at Wells Fargo Bank. “It’s consistent with the broad improvement in the U.S. economicdata, but I think the extent of strength in today’s report is somewhat of a surprise, and this is a good sign for the U.S. employment market and the U.S. economy.”
The nation’s unemployment rate fell to 8.3 percent in January from 8.5 percent in the prior month. The rate has dropped 0.8 percentage point since August and is now at its lowest level in nearly three years, having fallen for five consecutive months — the first time that has happened since late 1994.
The decline in the jobless rate reflected large gains in employment in the separate household survey from which the jobless rate is derived. Job gains were widespread, with even the transportation and warehousing sector increasing payrolls.
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