Vincent Farnsworth 4:30 p.m., March 15
News Mixed in Unemployment Report
The U.S. lost 20,000 jobs in January, according government statistics released this morning (Feb. 5). Economists had expected a gain of 25,000 jobs. December's job loss was raised to 150,000 from 85,000 reported earlier, although November was revised upward. In its periodic "benchmark" revision, the government said 8.4 million jobs have been lost since December of 2007 -- almost a million more than previously estimated. But there was good news: temporary and manufacturing jobs rose in January, average hourly earnings went up a surprising 5 cents to $18.89, and the underemployment rate, which includes people who have given up seeking work and those working part-time but preferring full-time work, dropped to 16.5% from 17.3% in December.
Then, there was news that might be misinterpreted: the unemployment rate fell to 9.7% from 10% in December. Economists said it appeared to be a statistical quirk, but it might make consumers feel somewhat better.
One possible piece of good news: the birth-death adjustment model, which attempts to estimate jobs in newly-created businesses that aren't captured in the monthly statistics, reported a decline of 427,000 jobs. This might suggest that the reported job loss is actually too high.
The stock market has jumped up and down on the news and actually might be focusing more on European woes in Greece, along with Portugal, Ireland, Italy and Spain.