The U.S. economy saw modest payroll expansion in January, with employers adding 49,000 jobs. That figure is slightly below analysts’ expectations. But it is also an improvement over December’s job losses of 227,000.

Revised figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics for November and December show that these two months combined saw 159,000 fewer positions added than previously reported. Many job losses at the end of 2020 and in January are attributed to a surge in the COVID-19 pandemic and the efforts to contain it.

Professional and business services led job growth

Employment in professional and business services rose by 97,000 last month, with temporary help services accounting for most of that gain (81,000 jobs added).

These industries also reported job growth in January:

  • Government: 43,000 jobs added
  • Information: 16,000 jobs added
  • Wholesale trade: 14,300 jobs added
  • Mining and logging: 9,000 jobs added
  • Financial activities: 8,000 jobs added
  • Other services: 7,000 jobs added

Several industries also saw notable payroll contraction last month, including leisure and hospitality, retail trade, transportation and warehousing, and manufacturing.

Unemployment rate slides to 6.3%

The national unemployment rate in January was 6.3%, falling from 6.7% in December.

The unemployment rate for college-degreed workers was 4.0% last month, up slightly from 3.8% in December. These professionals are the most highly sought-after job candidates.

Stay up to date on the latest hiring trends

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You can check out all the data here on the Robert Half website.