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Unemployment Ticks Up, 157,000 Jobs Added



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This morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics’ report, for January, finds that the unemployment rate rose a tenth of a percentage point, to 7.9 percent, as the economy gained 157,000 jobs, the latter being roughly in line with expectations.

But thanks to positive revisions from the two previous months, this number actually represents, if it’s not wildly revised, a slight slowdown: The BLS’s revised numbers now show that we gained 247,000 jobs in November, and 196,000 jobs in December (a combined upward revision of 127,000 jobs). The labor-force-participation rate and the employment-population ratio remain unchanged this month, both remaining at quite low levels.

By industry, health care continued to be a reliable bright spot, adding 23,000 jobs, and retail was strong, too, adding 33,000 jobs. Construction was the other obvious strong point, with employment rising by 28,000 — the BLS notes that this sector’s employment has been growing since January 2011, but one-third of that growth has come in the past four months, which have seen very promising housing numbers. They remind us, however, that, “However, the January 2013 level of construction employment remained about 2 million below its previous peak level in April 2006.” Lastly, the president’s manufacturing revolution remains, well, still on the assembly line: “Manufacturing employment was essentially unchanged in January and has changed little, on net, since July 2012.”

Government payrolls dropped 9,000 jobs in January; the revisions to November and December now actually find that, government-payroll shrinkage aside, private payrolls grew by more than 200,000 in both months.

As to why the unemployment rate rose despite steady labor-force participation and job growth that’s a bit above what’s necessary to match population growth, two things: The household survey, on which the unemployment rate is based (versus the survey of businesses that’s used to determine jobs added or lost), showed payroll growth of just 17,000 jobs, while the same survey found the civilian labor force growing by 140,000 jobs.

Average hourly earnings rose slightly, always another encouraging sign, but hours worked per week remained the same, and edged down for some sectors — these numbers had been rising steadily in tandem for the past few months.

The BLS had no comment on how the dissolution of the president’s jobs council this month may have affected employment.



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