US employment report points toward growth for world's biggest economy
By Lucia Mutikani ,ReutersWASHINGTON -- U.S. employment grew modestly in January and gains in the prior two months were bigger than initially reported, supporting views the economy's sluggish recovery was on track despite a surprise contraction in output in the final three months of 2012. Employers added 157,000 jobs to their payrolls last month, the Labor Department said on Friday. There were 127,000 more jobs created in November and December than previously reported. The unemployment rate, however, edged up 0.1 percentage point to 7.9 percent.
February 2, 2013, 12:05 am TWN
The closely watched report also showed an increase in hourly earnings and solid gains in construction and retail employment.
“This is actually a really good number when you take into account the net upward revision,” said Terry Sheehan, an economic analyst at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates in Princeton, New Jersey.
GDP contracted at a 0.1 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter, largely because of a sharp slowdown in the pace of inventory accumulation and a plunge in defense spending.
“This shows that underneath the surface, the fourth-quarter economy was really pretty good despite all the defense cuts. I think the private sector is leading the way,” said Jack Ablin, chief investment officer at BMO Private Bank in Chicago.
Economists polled by Reuters had expected employers to add 160,000 jobs and the unemployment rate to hold steady at 7.8 percent last month.
The Labor Department also published benchmark revisions to payrolls data going back to 2008. It said the employment level in March 2012 was 422,000 higher on a seasonally adjusted basis than previously reported. It also introduced new population factors for its survey of households from which the unemployment rate is calculated. This had a negligible effect on the major household survey measures.
Job growth in 2012 averaged 181,000 a month, but not enough to significantly reduce unemployment and prompt the Fed to the pull back on its bond-buying program. Economists say employment gains in excess of 250,000 a month over a sustained period are needed.
Though the unemployment rate dropped from a peak of 10 percent in October 2009, that was mostly because some unemployed Americans gave up the search for work.
The share of the working age population with a job has been below 60 percent for almost four years.
All the job gains in January were in the private sector, where hiring was as broad-based as it was in December and declines in public sector employment remained moderate.