Mass­a­chu­setts employers added more than 16,000 jobs in Jan­uary, the strongest pace of hiring in years and a bright note in an oth­er­wise tepid recovery.

The state’s unem­ploy­ment rate held steady at 6.7 per­cent for the fourth straight month, and remains well below the national unem­ploy­ment rate of 7.9 per­cent, the state Exec­u­tive Office of Labor and Work­force Devel­op­ment reported.

Both the state and national economies appear to be gaining trac­tion, despite $85 bil­lion in fed­eral spending reduc­tions that went into effect last week, said North­eastern Uni­ver­sity econ­o­mist Alan Clayton-​​Matthews. Busi­nesses, con­sumers, and investors appear to be gaining con­fi­dence that the recovery is picking up speed.

One indi­cator of that con­fi­dence: The Dow Jones indus­trial average soared to a record highs this week.

There is a strength in the under­lying economy which is coming out now,” Clayton-​​Matthews said. “We’ve turned the expec­ta­tions corner.”

The corner was turned when Wash­ington resolved some long-​​standing tax and policy ques­tions at the end of last year, Clayton-​​Matthews said. Bruising debates over the debt ceiling fol­lowed by an election-​​year stale­mate over reducing the nation’s deficit had left many employers wary of hiring or expanding.

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