Saturday, February 8, 2014

Despite Weak Growth of Payroll Jobs, the January Employment Report is Fundamentally Positive

Although the news that the U.S. economy generated just 113,000 new payroll jobs in January 2014 disappointed many observers, the latest report from the BLS on the employment situation was fundamentally positive. That was evident not only from the 6.6 percent unemployment rate, down nearly half a percentage point over the last two months, but also from many underlying measures of employment stress—part-time work, long-term joblessness, and others.

Let’s start with the bad news and get it out of the way. January’s 113,000 new payroll jobs marked the second month in a row of low job growth. December’s even lower figure was revised up by just 1,000 jobs to 75,000. Even here, though, the news was not all bad. The relatively robust November job gain was revised up from a first-reported 203,000 to 274,000. In addition, the BLS rebenchmarked its data, as it does each year, to reflect a more comprehensive count of payrolls. The rebenchmarking increased job growth for the year by 136,000, bringing the total gain to 2,322,000. The following chart shows the rebenchmarked data.

Data from the household survey were considerably more upbeat than those from the establishment survey on which the data for payroll jobs are based. The two surveys differ in several ways. Among other things, the household survey includes self-employed and farm workers. It also counts workers, not jobs; one worker with two jobs gets double-counted in the establishment survey.

The household survey showed strong improvement in the labor market—630,000 more employed workers and 115,000 unemployed than in December. The unemployment rate fell to 6.6 percent, the lowest in more than five years.  In contrast to December, when a decrease in the unemployment rate was largely attributed to a decrease in the labor force, the number of people working or looking for work rose by 523,000. Both the labor force participation rate and the employment-population ratio increased.
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Follow this link to view or download a classroom-ready slideshow with charts of the latest employment data

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