Jobs data projected to show faster January growth

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Martin Feldstein: U.S. at full employment

Former Reagan Economic Advisor Martin Feldstein on the 2016 presidential race and the state of the U.S. economy and job market.

U.S. employers hired workers at a faster pace in January compared with the previous month, the Labor Department is expected to report Friday.

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The economy is expected to have added 180,000 jobs last month, according to economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters. That would be better than the worse-than-expected 148,000 additional positions in December but shy of the average of 204,000 jobs over the previous three months. The unemployment rate is expected to stay at a 17-year low of 4.1%.

The economists project that manufacturing jobs increased by 20,000, less than the 25,000 new positions reported for December.

“Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone,” President Donald Trump said in his State of the Union address Tuesday.

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Trump added that unemployment among African-Americans and Hispanic Americans are at record lows. He said the tax cut he signed in December provided relief for small businesses.

Seasonally adjusted initial jobless claims unexpectedly fell by 1,000 to 230,000 during the week ended Jan. 27, the Labor Department reported Thursday. The previous week's level was revised down by 2,000 to 231,000 from 233,000. The projection of economists surveyed by Thomson Reuters was for an increase to 238,000. 

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The four-week moving average was 234,500, a decrease of 5,000 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 500 from 240,000 to 239,500. 

The Federal Reserve said Wednesday in its statement following a two-day meeting that the U.S. economy will expand at a moderate pace and the job market will remain strong. Inflation will accelerate this year and stabilize at the Federal Open Market Committee’s 2% goal over the medium term.

The central bank held the target lending rate at 1.25% to 1.5%.