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Economy Adds 243,000 Jobs, Unemployment Drops to 8.3 Percent

The nation’s unemployment rate in January fell to 8.3 percent, down from December’s 8.5 percent, and the economy added 243,000 jobs, according to the latest figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The nation’s unemployment rate continues it steady decline, dropping by 0.8 percentage points since August and to the lowest point since February 2009. The number of jobless workers dropped to 12.8 million, down from December’s 13.1 million. But the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 5.5 million, about 42.9 percent of the unemployed.

The unemployment insurance program for the nation’s jobless workers expires Feb. 29.  A conference is now under way between the Senate and House over two very different one-year extensions of the UI program passed late last year, and the Republican bill would slash federal benefits, impose harsh new restrictions and move to dismantle the essential lifeline of unemployment insurance. 

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says, “The seeds of sustainable job growth are clearly present—if Republicans in Congress do not succeed in weakening the recovery.”

Republican leaders, who are admittedly unconcerned with the poor and still pressing for ill-timed austerity in Washington and state capitals, run a very real risk of putting this incipient recovery at risk. President Obama, by contrast, has laid out a comprehensive agenda for job creation and broadly shared prosperity, rather than wealth for a few.

Private-sector jobs grew by 257,000, and government employment was essentially unchanged, but over the past 12 months 276,000 public employee jobs have been lost.

In January, professional and business services add about 70,000 jobs. The leisure and hospitality industry added 44,000 jobs and health care jobs grew by 31,000.

Manufacturing saw an increase of 50,000 jobs, mostly in durable goods, and the construction industry added 21,000 jobs.  There were 10,000 new jobs in the mining industry in January.

The unemployment rates for adult men (7.7 percent) and African Americans (13.6 percent) declined in January. The unemployment rates for adult women (7.7 percent), teenagers (23.2 percent), whites (7.4 percent) and Hispanics (10.5 percent) were little changed.

Economic Policy Institute (EPI) economist Heidi Shierholz says today’s figures show “a labor market where all the moving parts seemed to be moving in a solidly good direction.”

Strong payroll employment growth was matched by a falling unemployment rate, strong employment growth in the household survey and a growing share of the population with jobs….It’s important to keep this growth in context, however—the jobs deficit is so large that even at January’s growth rate, it would still take until 2019 to get back to full employment.  We need reports this strong and stronger for the next several years to get back to good health in the labor market.

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