The good, the bad and the weird of jobs report


Digital First Media

January’s jobs report was another weird one.

The U.S. economy added fewer jobs than anyone had been expecting, and despite the bitter cold that gripped much of the country, construction companies were hiring. Overall, the unemployment rate dipped to 6.6 percent, and the economy added an estimated 113,000 jobs.

In Massachusetts, the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development won’t release January job statistics and employment information for the Berkshires and the rest of the state until early March.

Here’s the good, the bad and the strange from Friday’s report from the U.S. Labor Department.

First the good news:

Unemployment is falling

The unemployment rate dropped in January not because of people dropping out of the workforce or losing unemployment benefits but because people actually found jobs. At 6.6 percent, it’s also at its lowest level since October 2008.

Fewer stuck in part-time jobs

The number of people working part-time because they couldn’t find full-time work or because their hours had been cut fell by 514,000 to 7.3 million in January.

Fewer people are giving up

The civilian labor force grew by nearly half a million people in January. Two key figures also rose: the labor participation rate, to 63 percent, and the employment-population ratio, to 58.8 percent.

Last year’s average job gains

The final word from the Labor Department is that U.S. economy added an average of 194,000 jobs a month for 2013, more than the 182,000 a month it had initially estimated.

And now, the bad news:

Job growth is slowing

On the surface, the U.S. economy adding 113,000 jobs may sound like a good thing, but it actually represents a major slowdown in hiring. In 2013, the U.S. added an average of 194,000 jobs a month, and economists were expecting the economy to have added 180,000 or so jobs in January.

Many are still unemployed

An estimated 10.2 million people were counted among the unemployed in January. This number has barely budged, and among the unemployed, 35 percent have been out of work for six months or more.

The December revisions

Last month’s strange jobs report had many people expecting revisions from the Bureau of Labor Statistics today. Those revisions came, but they show that the U.S. added 75,000 jobs in December instead of the 74,000 initially estimated, which doesn’t leave much room to celebrate.

And then there’s the just plain weird parts of Friday’s report:

Construction is booming

Really, who’s going on a construction hiring binge during blizzard season? Apparently American construction firms. They were responsible for almost 43 percent of the the jobs added in January.


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