News / Economy

US Employment Report Points to Steady Growth

Construction worker Miguel Fonseca carries lumber as he works on a house frame for a new home, Chula Vista, Calif., Nov. 16, 2012.
Construction worker Miguel Fonseca carries lumber as he works on a house frame for a new home, Chula Vista, Calif., Nov. 16, 2012.
Reuters
U.S. employment grew modestly in January and gains in the prior two months were bigger than initially reported, supporting views the economy's sluggish recovery was on track despite a surprise contraction in output in the final three months of 2012.
 
Employers added 157,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. There were 127,000 more jobs created in November and December than previously reported. The unemployment rate, however, edged up 0.1 percentage point to 7.9 percent.
 
The closely watched report also showed an increase in hourly earnings and solid gains in construction and retail employment.
 
"This is actually a really good number when you take into account the net upward revision," said Terry Sheehan, an economic analyst at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates in Princeton, New Jersey.
 
Stock index futures added to gains on the report, while prices for U.S. Treasury debt traded slightly higher and the dollar extended losses against the euro. Coming on the heels of data on Wednesday showing a surprise contraction in gross domestic product in the fourth quarter, that should ease any worries the economy was at risk of recession, even though the unemployment rate ticked up.
 
GDP contracted at a 0.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, largely because of a sharp slowdown in the pace of inventory accumulation and a plunge in defense spending.
 
A monster storm that hit the East Coast in late October also weighed on output, a drag that should lift this quarter.
 
Federal Reserve officials said on Wednesday that economic activity had "paused," but they signaled optimism the recovery would regain speed with continued monetary policy support. The Fed left in place a monthly $85 billion bond-buying stimulus plan.
 
"This shows that underneath the surface, the fourth-quarter economy was really pretty good despite all the defense cuts," said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago. "I think the private sector is leading the way."
 
Economists polled by Reuters had expected employers to add 160,000 jobs and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 7.8 percent last month.
 
The Labor Department also published benchmark revisions to payrolls data going back to 2008. It said the employment level in March 2012 was 422,000 higher on a seasonally adjusted basis than previously reported. It also introduced new population factors for its survey of households from which the unemployment rate is calculated. This had a negligible effect on the major household survey measures.
 
Modest Jobs Growth
 
Job growth in 2012 averaged 181,000 a month, but not enough to significantly reduce unemployment and prompt the Fed to the pull back on its bond-buying program. Economists say employment gains in excess of 250,000 a month over a sustained period are needed.
 
Though the unemployment rate dropped from a peak of 10 percent in October 2009, that was mostly because some unemployed Americans gave up the search for work because of weak job prospects.
 
The share of the working age population with a job has been below 60 percent for almost four years.
 
All the job gains in January were in the private sector, where hiring was as broad-based as it was in December and declines in public sector employment remained moderate. Steady job gains could help the economy weather the headwinds of higher taxes and government spending cuts. A payroll tax cut expired on Jan. 1 and big automatic spending cuts are set to take hold in March unless Congress acts.
 
The goods-producing sector showed a third month of solid gains, with manufacturing employment advancing for a fourth straight month. Construction payrolls increased 28,000, adding to December's healthy 30,000 gain. Construction jobs are expected to rise further as the housing market recovery gains momentum.
 
Housing is expected to support the economy this year, taking over the baton from manufacturing.
 
Within the vast private services sector, retail jobs increased by a solid 32,600 jobs after rising 11,200 in December. Retail employment has now risen for seven straight months.
 
Education and health payrolls added 25,000 jobs in January after employment grew by the most in 10 months in December.
 
Government payrolls dropped by 9,000 last month after falling 6,000 in December. The pace is moderating as local government layoffs, outside education, subside.
 
Average hourly earnings rose four cents last month. Hourly earnings have been rising steadily. They were up 2.1 percent in the 12 months through January.
 
"It may be that we are now getting to a point in the labor market where we are going to see an upward creep in average hourly earnings," said John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics in New York. "That's going to be good for the consumer and they need help because they are being whacked by the payrolls tax increase."
 
The length of the workweek for the average worker was steady at 34.4 hours for a third straight month.

You May Like

China Announces Corruption Probe into Senior Ex-Leader

Former security chief and member of Politburo Standing Committee, Zhou Yongkang, being probed for suspected 'serious disciplinary violation' More

India, US Look to Reset Ties During Kerry Visit

This week's talks will be first high level interaction between two countries since Prime Minister Narendra Modi took charge More

Video Young African Leadership Program Renamed to Honor Mandela

YALI program, launched by President Obama in 2010, aims to build skills in business, entrepreneurship, public management and civic leadership More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spati
X
Reasey Poch
July 28, 2014 7:18 PM
China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video Vietnamese Staging Chinese Product Boycott After Oil Rig Spat

China recently pulled an oil rig from an area of the disputed South China Sea that Vietnam also claims. Despite the action, the incident has had a lingering effect on consumers in Vietnam. VOA's Reasey Poch reports from Hanoi on an effort to boycott Chinese products.
Video

Video ESA Spacecraft to Land on a Comet

After a long flight through deep space, a European Space Agency probe is finally approaching its target -- a comet millions of kilometers away from earth. Scientists say the mission may lead to some startling discoveries about the origins of the water on earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Young Africans Arrive in US for Leadership Program

President Barack Obama's Young African Leadership Initiative has brought hundreds of young Africans to the United States for a six-week program aimed at building their knowledge and skills in fields such as public administration and business. Out of the 50,000 young Africans who applied for the program, just one percent was accepted. VOA's Laurel Bowman caught up with some of those who made the cut and has this report.
Video

Video In Honduras, Amnesty Rumors Fuel US Migration Surges

False rumors in Central America are fueling the current surge of undocumented young people being apprehended at the U.S. border. The inaccurate claims suggest the U.S. will give amnesty to young migrants from the region. As VOA's Brian Padden reports from Honduras, these rumors trace back to President Obama's 2012 executive order to halt deportations for some young undocumented immigrants already living in the United States.
Video

Video Students in Business for Themselves

They're only high school students, but they are making accessories for shoes, fabricating backpacks and doing product photography - all through their own businesses. It's the result of a partnership between a non-profit organization that teaches entrepreneurship and their schools. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan and Deyane Moses met the budding entrepreneurs near Los Angeles.
Video

Video Astronauts Train in Underwater Lab

In the world’s only underwater laboratory, four U.S. astronauts train for a planned visit to an asteroid. The lab - called Aquarius- is located five kilometers off Key Largo, in southern Florida. Living in close quarters and making excursions only into the surrounding ocean, they try to simulate the daily routine of a crew that will someday travel to collect samples of a rock orbiting far away from earth. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.7305
JPY
USD
101.53
GBP
USD
0.5830
CAD
USD
1.0656
INR
USD
60.075

Rates may not be current.