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.
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

Video Obama: Action on Climate Change 'Economic, Security Imperative'

President spoke to reporters on sidelines of UN Climate Summit outside Paris, where leaders are working to agree on binding measures

IMF Bets on China’s Resolve to Reform

IMF announcement already raising questions about just how much Beijing is committed to such reforms

What Happened When I Landed in Antarctica

Refael Klein chronicles what it's like to visit one of the coldest, most desolate places on Earth

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video Political Motives Seen Behind Cancelled Cambodian Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle and Kimlong Meng report from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies


Rates may not be current.