Council of Economic Advisers statement on the employment situation in January

Administration: Feb. 1 report is a reminder of the importance of the need for Congress to act to avoid self-inflicted wounds to the economy.
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Statement on the employment situation in January

Alan B. Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issued the following statement Feb.1  on the employment situation in January.

While more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we pursue the policies needed to build an economy that works for the middle class as we continue to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.

Today’s report is a reminder of the importance of the need for Congress to act to avoid self-inflicted wounds to the economy. The Administration continues to urge Congress to move toward a sustainable fderal budget in a responsible way that balances revenue and spending, and replaces the sequester, while making critical investments in the economy that promote growth and job creation and protect our most vulnerable citizens.

With today’s release, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has finalized its benchmark adjustment, and the latest data show that the economy has now added private sector jobs for 35 straight months, and a total of 6.1 million jobs have been added over that period. In 2012, private businesses added 2.2 million payroll jobs. The first report of private sector job growth for January is that businesses added 166,000 jobs. Total non-farm payroll employment rose by 157,000 jobs last month. The average first report of monthly job growth in 2012 was 142,000; that is now revised up to 181,000 jobs per month.

The household survey showed that the unemployment rate was 7.9 percent in January, up from 7.8 percent in December. The labor force participation rate was unchanged at 63.6 percent in January. Over the last 12 months, the unemployment rate has fallen by 0.4 percentage point, and the labor force participation rate has been essentially unchanged.

According to the establishment survey, in January employment rose notably in retail trade (+32,600), construction (+28,000), health care and social assistance (+27,600), professional and business services (+25,000), and restaurants and bars (+17,100). Manufacturing gained 4,000 jobs in January. The manufacturing sector has added about a half-million jobs over the last three years, the most for any such period since 1996. Also of note, in the last two years the construction sector has gained nearly 300,000 jobs, with one-third of that gain occurring in the last four months. Government lost 9,000 jobs in January, including 5,000 Federal government jobs, and 4,700 jobs in local government education. The local government education sector has now lost 339,400 jobs since its recent peak in November 2009.

As the Administration stresses every month, the monthly employment and unemployment figures can be volatile, and payroll employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report and it is informative to consider each report in the context of other data that are becoming available.

Alan B. Krueger is the chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers.