The January Jobs Numbers

Last Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report on the employment situation for the month of January. According to the payroll survery, 257,000 private-sector jobs were created in the first month of the year. Moreover, revisions added the number of people working in previous months. According to the household survey, the unemployment rate dropped from 8.5% to 8.3%. The news is positive but the magnitude of the change is still too small to affect the overall jobs outlook, which remains pretty miserable.

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The December employment report

On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released its report on the December Employment Situation. According to the payroll survey, the U.S. economy added 212,000 private sector jobs in December. Since the trough in February, 2010, an average of 144,000 private jobs have been added each month, so one might think that the recent performance is a substantive improvement. But this growth is barely sufficient to keep up with the growth in the population. Meanwhile, the household survey indicated that the civilian unemployment rate fell from 8.7% in November to 8.5% in December, although, as we shall see, there is far less in those numbers than first meets the eye. Some analysts have gone so far as to say that this is the beginning of a significant recovery. They are mistaken.

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The November Employment Report

Earlier today, the Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey claimed that the U.S. added 120,000 jobs in November while the population survey claimed that the unemployment rate fell from 9.0% to 8.6%. Furthermore, the BLS revised its earlier estimates for job growth in September and October, adding an additional 127,000 jobs. This sounds like good news. Sadly, however, it is not. The gains in payrolls are still too meager to put a meaningful dent in the number of people without work. Likewise, the sharp drop in the headline unemployment rate is due more to a collapse in the number of people looking for work rather than actual growth in the number of people employed.

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