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.