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January Payrolls Beat Expectations; Unemployment Ticks Up to 5.7%

Unemployed-ChalkboardU.S. payrolls increased more than expected in January, signaling a build in economic momentum as 2015 got under way.

Employers nationwide added 257,000 new jobs last month, the Bureau of Labor Statistics [1] (BLS) said Friday [2]. Economists projected a payroll increase of 230,000.

Adding to January's good news, payroll numbers for November and December were revised upward to 423,000 and 329,000, respectively, making November the best month for employment growth since May 2010.

The unemployment rate, which is measured from a separate household survey, ticked up slightly to 5.7 percent from December's 5.6 percent, reflecting an increase in the number of Americans looking for work. After accounting for annual adjustments to population controls, BLS said the civilian labor force rose by 703,000 in January, bringing the labor force participation rate back up to a still-low 62.9 percent.

While decision makers at the Federal Reserve are likely to take notice of the faster rate of growth, recent statements from the central bank indicate they're in no rush to move early on their plans to raise interest rates. In a statement [3] in late January, the Federal Open Market Committee described the pace of job gains as "solid," instead pointing to the slow rate of inflation as the factor holding them back.

For all the positive signs in Friday's report, there were a few negative indicators, including an increase in the number of long-term unemployed people to 2.8 million—about 31.5 percent of the total jobless population.

Meanwhile, the number of Americans who have given up on looking for work, while down from December, remained elevated at 682,000.

There was one more big encouraging stat, though: Hourly earnings jumped 12 cents in January to an average $24.75, a sharp turnaround from December and a good sign for consumers stymied by stagnant wages.