The Dow gained more than 180 points, or 0.6% shortly after the opening bell. The government said that 49,000 jobs were added in January following a revised loss of 227,000 jobs in December. Economists had forecast a jobs gain of 50,000 for January.
The unemployment rate fell to 6.3% from 6.7% a month earlier. But that’s still much higher than the 3.5% jobless rate a year ago before the Covid-19 pandemic sent the economy into recession.
Wages rose only modestly last month however, news that isn’t great for American workers but could be encouraging for investors.
The slight wage gain suggests that inflation still isn’t a major economic threat, which likely means the Federal Reserve can hold interest rates near zero for a lot longer without having to worry that the economy will overheat.
The hopes for continued Fed stimulus, combined with expectations that consumer and business activity could soon resume to something closer to normal as more people receive coronavirus vaccines, has lifted the stock market for the past few months.
Strong fourth quarter earnings have also helped boost investor sentiment. Ford, biotech company Gilead Sciences, social media firm Pinterest and video game maker Activision Blizzard all rose following solid results.
Shares of GameStop and AMC were lower again though, even as Robinhood eased restrictions on buying those and other so-called meme stocks that have been boosted this year due to support from the Reddit WallStreetBets community.