U.S. job growth accelerates as jobless rate drops

Job growth continues to accelerate in the United States even as the jobless rate drops.

According to the latest Labor Department estimates, nonfarm payrolls grew 243,000 in January as the unemployment rate edged down two-tenths to 8.3 percent.

The January increase was the largest monthly gain in payrolls in nine months. The jobless rate has retreated to its lowest level in nearly three years.

Based on the results of the latest monthly survey of employers, the private sector added 257,000 jobs with gains spread across a number of industry sectors. Government payrolls shrank by 14,000.

Initial estimates for job gains in December and November were revised upward a combined 60,000.

Still, an estimated 5.5 million people were counted among those unemployed for 27 weeks or more. Another 8.2 million were counted among those working part-time for economic reasons.

The unemployment rate, which is determined by a separate household survey, has dropped eight-tenths of a percent since August.

For January, professional and business services added 70,000 jobs, while manufacturing payrolls rose 50,000. The leisure and hospitality sector added 44,000 jobs and health care employment rose 31,000. The construction industry added another 21,000 jobs and mining employment grew 10,000.

The average workweek for employees on private nonfarm payrolls remained unchanged in January at 34.4 hours, while the average manufacturing workweek lengthened by three-tenths of an hour to 40.9 hours.

Average hourly earnings for employees on private nonfarm payrolls roseĀ 4 cents in January to $23.29. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased 1.9 percent.