IBJNews

National unemployment rate drops to 9.7 percent

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

The outlook for jobs became a bit less bleak with January's unexpected decline in the unemployment rate, which fell to 9.7 percent from 10 percent as more people said they had jobs.

Still, Friday's unemployment report showed just how deep the job crisis remains. The government now estimates 8.4 million jobs vanished in the so-called Great Recession, and economists think the nation would be lucky to get back 1.5 million of them this year. And they say it will take at least three to four years for the job market to return to anything like normal.

The unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since August, primarily because a Labor Department survey of households found a sharp increase in the number of Americans with jobs. Analysts expected an increase to 10.1 percent.

A separate survey of businesses found that employers shed 20,000 jobs last month.

January's report offers hope that employers may start adding jobs soon. Excluding the beleaguered construction industry, the private sector as a whole added 63,000 positions.

John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo, said the drop in the unemployment rate wasn't a result of a shrinking labor force, which has held the rate down in previous months.

"It simply was, people found jobs," he said. The report is "consistent with continued improvement in the labor market."

But Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics, noted that the economy has been growing for six months yet company payrolls are still shrinking.

"Based on what we've seen so far, we think it is fair to characterize this as another jobless recovery," Ashworth said.

The employment figure for November was revised higher to show a gain of 64,000 jobs, up from 4,000. But the December figure was revised lower, canceling out the gain.

The manufacturing sector added jobs for the first time since January 2007. Its gain of 11,000 jobs was the most since April 2006.

Retailers added 42,100 jobs, the most since November 2007, before the recession began. Temporary help services gained 52,000 jobs, its fourth month of gains. That could signal future hiring, as employers usually hire temp workers before permanent ones.

The average work week increased to 33.3 hours, from 33.2. That indicates employers are increasing hours for their current workers, a step that usually precedes new hiring.

The number of part-time workers who want full-time work, but can't find it, fell by almost 1 million. That lowered the "underemployment" rate, which also includes discouraged workers, to 16.5 percent from 17.3 percent. That could be a result of some part-timers moving to full-time work, economists said.

The federal government has begun hiring workers to perform the 2010 census, which added 9,000 jobs. That process could add as many as 1.2 million jobs this year, though they will all be temporary.

But job cuts at the state and local levels canceled out those gains, as government employment fell by 8,000.

Most of the 75,000 jobs lost in the construction industry came from the commercial building sector, the department said. Construction lost more jobs than other sector.

Still, jobs remain scarce even as the economy is recovering. Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's output, has risen for two straight quarters. GDP rose by 5.7 percent in the October-December quarter, the fastest pace in six years.

Many economists say businesses are reluctant to add workers because it's not clear whether the recovery will continue once government stimulus measures, such as tax credits for home buyers, fade this spring.

The debate over health care reform and the scheduled expiration of some Bush administration tax cuts at the end of this year may also hold back some employers, many economists said.

"Until some of these uncertainties from Washington get cleared up, businesses, particularly small businesses, are going to be loath to do any additional hiring," said Hank Smith, chief investment officer at Haverford Investments.

High unemployment could restrain consumer spending, which has led most recoveries in the past. That's why many economists think the current rebound will be weak.

Public concern about persistent unemployment has forced President Barack Obama and members of Congress to shift their attention to jobs and the economy and away from health care reform. The Senate will begin working Monday on legislation that would give companies a tax break for hiring new workers, Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

The budget plan Obama released this week projects unemployment will still be very high — 9.8 percent — by the end of this year.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • unemployment
    I don't believe the numbers went down. I know of several people, including my son, who have been laid off almost a year. They send out resumes, but get no response.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. Hello Dear Are you tired of Seeking Loans and Mortgages,have you Been Turned down constantly By your banks and Other Financial Institutions or Micro Finance scheme. This is let you know with 100% guarantee that we Offer loans ranging from $1,000 Minimum to $1,000,000.00 Maximum at 3% interest rate per Month. We give out LOANS for developing business. a competitive edge/business expansion. email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com We offer the following kinds of loans and many more; * Personal Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Business Loans ( Unsecured Loan) * Consolidation Loan * Combination Loan * Home Improvement * Xmas Loans for contact to seek for loan email this email address: michealscottloan124@gmail.com Thanks

  2. My name is Mr Henry Josh and i live in the USA California and life is worth living right now for me and my family and all this is because of one man sent by GOD to help me and my family, i once had a life filled with sorrow because my first SON needed a kidney transplant and all our savings were going towards his medications and this normally leaves us with no money to pay our bills or even put enough food on our table and our rent was due and no funds to pay these bills and life felt so unfair to me and every night my wife will cry herself to sleep every night until one day, i was browsing through yahoo answers and i saw a striking advert of a man that gives out personal loans and that the offer is opened to all and i have heard so many things about internet scams but at this point of my life, i was very desperate and ready to take any risk and at the end of the day, i applied for this loan and from one step to another, i got my loan within 12 hours through bank transfer and you know, it was all like a dream and i called Mr Daniel Jones A Man who is the GOD sent lender i found and said, i have received my loan and he smiled stating that to GOD be the glory and i was so shocked as i have never ever seen anyone with such a GOD fearing and kind heart and today, i am the happiest man on earth because by GOD’S grace, my SON kidney transplant was successful and today he is healthy, i and my family are living very comfortable and happy and if you are in my former situation or in serious and legitimate need of a loan, you can reach this GOD sent lender via fidelityloanfirm@outlook.com

  3. Greetings to everyone reading this comment!!! I am Greg William by name. I am out here to recommend the effort of Mark Oscar,I was in need of a consolidation loan amount of 50,000 and as soon as I got in contact with Mark Oscar Loan Firm on Wednesday last week and on Friday last week as well I receive an alert from my bank(Royal Bank of Scotland Group) that the fund was transferred,I want everybody on this site to contact Mark Oscar now via email on how to get a loan because I got my loan from them and I am very happy,so contact them now. Oscarloanfinance@hotmail.com Thanks!!!!!!

  4. Elected officials, like Mourdock, get vested in 8 years. It takes 10 years for all other public employees, most of whom make a lot less money. So much for the promise to finish out his term.

  5. Great state treasurer and a good man!! Just curious if the folks who didn't quite understand his quote would like to tell my daughter-in-law that God didn't intend her! Mourdock's comment was correct but twisted and the article didn't mention that his opponent and the press let the impression stand that Mourdock meant that the rape was intended. Stupid people!!

ADVERTISEMENT