Shockingly good jobs report for U.S. released today: 8.3% unemployment, 243,000 jobs added, U-6 unemployment trending down

The Bureau of Labor Statistics monthly report for January was the most promising jobs report that we’ve seen in years.

From the news release:

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 243,000 in January, and the
unemployment rate decreased to 8.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor
Statistics reported today. Job growth was widespread in the private
sector, with large employment gains in professional and business
services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Government
employment changed little over the month.

Even better, there were upward revisions to previous months: +57,000 in November (to 157,000) and +3,000 (to 203,000) in December.

Private sector jobs increased by 257,000 in January, with losses of 14,000 government jobs.

U-6 unemployment — “Total unemployed, plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force” — continued to trend down, falling to 15.1% seasonally adjusted from 15.2% in December.

By the way, it’s probably worth noting that all of this data is seasonally adjusted and January is one of the months that sees the heaviest use in making adjustments. It’s an awful month for employment even in good years, so it’s possible that structural changes in the labor force not yet reflected in seasonal models could be overstating the numbers somehow. But that’s pure speculation on my part. There could be other gremlins lurking in the data somewhere too, but I sure haven’t seen any yet.

A couple of days ago I wrote about the possibility that a virtuous circle might finally be taking hold in the economy. Given the known headwinds, it’s probably too early to make that argument, but an optimist would have even more reason to believe today.

Of course, it’s always worth noting that the U.S. economy had a really weak jobs recovery after the 2001 recession (2011 was actually the second best year for job growth of the century so far), and that we got absolutely hammered by job losses from early 2008 through mid-2009. We’ve still got a long long way to get out of the hole.

Calculated Risk hasn’t updated this graph yet this a.m., but here’s what the job losses and slow recovery looked like a month ago compared to other post-WW II recessions: