Today’s job report marks the first full year of labor market data under the Trump administration. The economy added 200,000 jobs in January, which brings the average monthly job creation under the Trump administration to 176,000—slower than each of the last five years of the Obama administration, but still enough to keep up with the growing population. Unemployment held steady at 4.1 percent for the fourth consecutive month, as did the labor force participation rate. Year-over-year nominal wages grew a more hopeful 2.9 percent, which can in part be attributed to minimum wage increases in January for an estimated 4.5 million workers, or about 3 percent of the workforce.
The black unemployment rate ticked up significantly to 7.7 percent. This series exhibits a fair amount of volatility because of its small sample size. Overall black unemployment has been trending downward since 2011—however, it is still about double the white unemployment rate. Low overall unemployment provides disproportionate benefits to workers of color, but the persistence of this 2-to-1 ratio reminds us we need to mobilize all levers of policy.
Today is the last day of Janet Yellen’s term at the Federal Reserve. For the most part, Yellen let the data guide her monetary policy decisions and appropriately allowed the labor market to continue its recovery. While much progress has been made, wage growth is sluggish, labor force participation is below full employment levels, and pockets of weakness in the job market remain. The next Fed chair should continue the course set by Yellen, keeping the Fed’s foot off the brake until the economy has fully recovered.