January employment

Good news in this morning’s employment data from the BLS: the unemployment rate dropped to 8.3% in January as 243,000 jobs were created. All of those jobs were in the private sector with government employment holding steady (after declining for the past few months). And, contrary to previous months, the civilian labor force increased. So more people were looking for work and more people found work. That is a good sign.
The number of involuntary underemployed was essentially unchanged (increased very slightly). The somewhat worrying part, however, is that slack work increased. This may be a reflection of slowing demand – or simply a statistical correction taking into account last month’s large decrease.
UPDATE: This story ran in the morning edition of the Washington Post (before the data was released) “Modest gains forecast for Jan. jobs report“:

With the government’s monthly unemployment report expected Friday, economists predicted it will show that the United States added about 150,000 jobs last month, sustaining a modest momentum in the economy.
The emphasis might be on modest.

Why do they even bother — and why are we still listening to them?

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