Unemployment in January fell to 9 percent, the lowest level since April 2009, the Labor Department announced. The drop from November’s 9.8 percent rate represented the biggest two-month decline since 1958. This is a clear sign of an economic reprieve.
It was also announced that the economy generated only 36,000 net new jobs, the fewest in four months. This statistic illustrates how job growth remains the economy’s soft spot.
The January report released last week shows a conflicting picture. Unemployment fell because the Labor Department’s household survey determined that more than a half-million people without jobs found work. The department conducts a separate survey of businesses, which showed tepid job creation. The two surveys sometimes diverge.
In addition, the severe winter weather that has pasted much of the U.S. likely reduced the number of jobs created. Harsh snowstorms last month cut into construction employment, which fell by 32,000, the most since May
One bright spot, however, is that manufacturing added 49,000 jobs, the most since August 1998.
Also encouraging news was that the number of temporary jobs rose by 52,000, indicating that while businesses are still reluctant to bring on permanent employees, these firms are hiring temps to keep up with demand. And the average workweek rose to 33.9 hours, from 33.8, also suggesting companies were trying to keep up with greater demand.