U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs in January; unemployment rate still high at 7.9%

Moments ago, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released jobs data for December. From that release:

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 157,000 in January, and the unemployment rate was essentially unchanged at 7.9 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Retail trade, construction, health care, and wholesale trade added jobs over the month.

Household Survey Data

The number of unemployed persons, at 12.3 million, was little changed in January. The unemployment rate was 7.9 percent and has been at or near that level since September 2012. […]

Both the employment-population ratio (58.6 percent) and the civilian labor force participation rate (63.6 percent) were unchanged in January. […]

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 157,000 in January. In 2012, employment growth
averaged 181,000 per month. In January, job gains occurred in retail trade, construction, health care, and wholesale trade, while employment edged down in transportation and warehousing.

We continue to add jobs at a moderate pace, clearly above the rate needed to compensate for population growth, although we’re still well below the pre-recession peak of employment. We’re stuck in a period of relatively slow growth because of lingering effects from the housing bust. We saw some big improvements in housing in 2012, but it was still one of the worst years for residential investment since World War II.

We also continue to see slow economic growth because of ongoing cuts in government employment, although that sector changed little this month, but still declined by 9,000, with the largest decline — 4,700 workers — coming in local government education.

The best news in today’s report is probably the upward revision for the last two months (something widely expected by economists):

The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised from +161,000 to +247,000, and the change for December was revised from +155,000 to +196,000. Monthly revisions result from additional reports received from businesses since the last published estimates and the monthly recalculation of seasonal factors. The annual benchmark process also contributed to these revisions.

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