For the first time in 53 months, the US economy contracted on the jobs front, losing 17,000 jobs in January:
The Labor Department's report, released Friday, also showed that the unemployment rate dipped slightly to 4.9 percent, from 5 percent, as the civilian labor force shrank slightly. 17,000 jobs may not sound like a lot but losing that many payroll employees across such a wide spectrum of the economy usually denotes a general weakness.
Job losses were widespread. Manufacturers, construction firms and a variety of professional and business services eliminated jobs in January — reflecting the toll of the housing and credit debacles.
The government cut jobs, too. All those cuts swamped job gains in education, health care, retailing and elsewhere. Wage growth also slowed, another indication that employers are tightening their belts amid the economic slowdown.
The next two months job growth figure will give us a good indication how rough a ride we are in for.