A robust US job market likely defied shutdown during January

WASHINGTON (AP) – United States (US) employers likely kept adding jobs at a healthy pace in January even in the face of threats ranging from weakening global growth to the Trump administration’s trade war with China to the partial shutdown of the government.

Yesterday, the Labour Department issued the monthly employment report, the first major economic report to cover most of the 35-day shutdown period that ended a week ago.

Economists have forecast that employers added 165,000 jobs and that the unemployment rate remained at a low 3.9 per cent, according to data provider FactSet.

The predicted job gain would be a solid one, though it would follow a blowout figure of 312,000 jobs that were added in December.

The partial government shutdown, the longest on record, isn’t expected to have had a significant effect on the January jobs report.

This November 2, 2017 file photo shows a recruiter from the postal service speaking with an attendee of a job fair in the cafeteria of Deer Lakes High School in Cheswick, Pa. – AP

That’s because of how the government will categorise the 800,000 Federal workers who weren’t paid for five weeks. All will be counted as employed in the government’s count of jobs in January.

That means the economy will almost certainly record the 100th straight month of job gains, a record.

Still, some of the roughly 380,000 Federal workers who didn’t work and weren’t paid might be counted as unemployed in a separate survey the government uses to calculate the unemployment rate.

If so, this could inflate the jobless rate by 0.2 percentage point, economists say, though the effect would be reversed in February as federal employees return to work.

Unlike some government agencies, the Labour Department received its annual funding before the shutdown and has operated normally throughout.

“The shutdown was very traumatic for federal workers, but it will probably not show up in most of the data for private sector workers,” said Chief Economist Andrew Chamberlain for the employment site Glassdoor.