American employers eased up on the gas last month, but still added jobs at a healthy enough pace to help calm fears that the economy is on the verge of falling into a recession.
The Labor Department said Friday that payrolls rose by 151,000 in January, a falloff from the year-end sprint that helped make 2015 the second-best year for job creation since the late 1990s.
Given those outsize gains, as well as much colder weather last month after the warmest December on record, some payback in January was to be expected.
But investors have lately been edgy, concerned about weakness in China,plunging oil prices and a series of reports suggesting the American economy may have hit an air pocket in recent weeks. The latest figures on the job market — plus a slight fall in the unemployment rate to 4.9 percent, from 5 percent in December — suggest some modest strength persists. January was the first time since February 2008 that the unemployment rate fell below 5 percent, just before the collapse of Bear Stearns set the stage for the financial crisis. Read more