America gets a raise: Wage growth fastest since 2009

Cups of US ice cream brand Haagen-Dazs, are seen on a production line on December 8, 2017 (DENIS CHARLET/AFP/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — America finally got a raise.

The U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in January, and wages grew at the fastest pace in eight years.

The unemployment rate stayed at 4.1%, the lowest since 2000, the Labor Department said Friday.

Wages were up 2.9% compared with a year earlier, the best pace since June 2009. Wage growth has been the last major measure to make meaningful progress since the end of the Great Recession.

The Federal Reserve would like wages to grow even faster —- 3% or more — but Friday’s figure was a welcome sign for workers after years of stagnant pay.

Economists say it’s time to take note of how strong, or “tight,” the U.S. job market is.

Friday’s figures show 2018 “will be a year of rising wages and the tightest labor market in over a generation,” said Joseph Brusuelas, chief U.S. economist at RSM, an accounting and consulting firm.

Some economists anticipate that the Republican tax law could boost wages because some large corporations are giving their workers raises. One-time bonuses, which many other companies have given out, are not counted in the wage growth calculation.

Several states also raised their minimum wage at the start of the year, which helped overall wages grow. And experts say wages had to rise at some point as the country kept adding jobs and unemployment stayed low.