Fed 'running out of excuses' for zero rates

Why it's hard to find fault with Friday's jobs numbers

Angela Hills gets a close-up look at the U.S. jobs market and generally likes what she sees.

A bustling hiring climate is good for her business, and current conditions are working out well for Hills, executive vice president at Cielo, a global employment recruiting firm that works across a variety of companies.

"Our business is on the uptick," Hills said in an interview shortly after the Labor Department reported Friday that the economy added 257,000 new jobs in January. The better-than-expected data meshed with what Hills said she has been observing on a daily basis.

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"We are seeing increases in demand for key positions and roles," she said. "We're seeing growth with new launches of products. Our clients are asking us to hire talent in terms of growth strategies."

Over the past three months, businesses have added more than 1 million jobs, according to upwardly revised numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Though still anemic by historical standards—growth was close to 4 percent the last time the unemployment rate was this low, in mid-2008—wages rose month over month at a faster pace than anytime during the post-financial crisis recovery.

While the numbers generated mostly applause on Wall Street, they also raised another question: When will the Federal Reserve stop acting like the economy is in crisis?

The central bank has been holding its short-term interest rate target near zero for more than six years, with expectations that it will begin hiking rates, incrementally, later in the year.