243,000 jobs added in January; official unemployment rate at 8.3%
It's good news all around for the jobless. It appears that the employment picture is indeed brightening and those who have been unemployed for a long time are finally getting back to work.
Every economic sector saw job growth. And beyond that, manufacturing enjoyed a 14 year high in weekly hours and a big bump in overtime worked.
The 243,000 increase in payrolls was the most since April and exceeded all forecasts in a Bloomberg News survey, Labor Department figures showed in Washington. The unemployment rate dropped to 8.3 percent, the lowest since February 2009.
The jump in hiring shows companies are gaining confidence the expansion will weather Europe's slump and may boost President Barack Obama's re-election bid. The data come one week after Fed policy makers said the economy wasn't growing fast enough to push down the jobless rate, prompting them to extend a pledge to keep interest rates low for another two years.
"Employers are stepping up new hires that had been postponed due to the uncertainty posed by recession fears in Europe," Chris Rupkey, chief financial economist at Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd. in New York, said before the report. "The Fed is probably not going to stay on hold as long as they think."
The jump in employment was broad-based, including manufacturing, construction, temporary help agencies, accounting firms, restaurants and retailers. The number of industries showing job gains climbed to 64.1 in January from 62.4 a month earlier.
Factory workers put in an average 41.9 hours of work each week, the most since January 1998, while overtime hours climbed to the highest since March 2007. Manufacturing payrolls increased by 50,000 in January, the most in a year.
The unemployment rate, derived from a separate survey of households, was forecast to hold at 8.5 percent, according to the survey median. The drop in the jobless rate reflected a 381,000 decrease in unemployment at the same time 250,000 Americans entered the labor force.
One piece of bad news; because the unemployment outlook is brightening, the Fed may be raising interest rates soon - interest on that $15 tillion in debt we owe. That means hundreds of billions more added to the deficit as the cost of serving the debt skyrockets.
And, the usual caveats about workers who have given up looking for a job holds. That number is still in the millions and once those workers start looking again, the unemployment rate is likely to edge back up.
But with upward revisions for November and December jobs numbers, the employment outlook for the country is improving.