The U.S. economy showed evidence of improvement last week, despite the fourth quarter slowdown. Job creation in January easily exceeded expectations as the economy generated 227,000 new non-farm jobs. It was the strongest gain since September, beating the consensus forecast of 180,000 and far outpacing the fourth quarter monthly average of 148,000. The unemployment rate rose to 4.8 percent as more potential workers joined the labor force. The participation rate climbed to 62.9 percent, equaling its September level, although it remains well below its 66.1 percent average in the five years prior to the financial crisis. Some of that difference is attributable to discouraged workers, some is attributable to lack of employable skills, and some is due to changing demographics as baby boomers retire.