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

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Image: Mike HallThe 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.  Click here for details.

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.

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.

This blog originally appeared in AFL-CIO Now blog on February 3, 2012. Reprinted with permission.

About the Author: Mike Hall is a former West Virginia newspaper reporter, staff writer for the United Mine Workers Journal and managing editor of the Seafarers Log. He came to the AFL- CIO in 1989 and has written for several federation publications, focusing on legislation and politics, especially grassroots mobilization and workplace safety. “When my collar was still blue, I carried union cards from the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers, American Flint Glass Workers and Teamsters for jobs in a chemical plant, a mining equipment manufacturing plant and a warehouse. I’ve also worked as roadie for a small-time country-rock band, sold my blood plasma and played an occasional game of poker to help pay the rent. You may have seen me at one of several hundred Grateful Dead shows. I was the one with longhair and the tie-dye. Still have the shirts, lost the hair.”


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