U.S. Gained 157,000 Jobs in January

Friday’s monthly jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics had mostly good news, even though the unemployment inched back up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent.

One of the major positive points was revisions to earlier data. Last year’s employment growth averaged an increase of 181,000 jobs per month, rather than the 150,000 or so previously thought. The only months revised downward were last July and August – about 27,000 jobs each – which were still over 150,000. Almost every other month was revised upward by a similar or larger margin.

Another positive: The last quarter of 2012 was particularly good, averaging over 200,000 jobs per month. (Although some of that was undoubtedly temporary work for meeting holiday demand.)

A third piece of good news is that construction is one of the major gainers recently, adding over 100,000 jobs in the past four months. That suggests continued improvement for the housing market and the overall economy. The Associated Press reports faster consumer spending (especially on cars and homes) and business investment in equipment and software is also moving things forward.

The bad news is mostly old, but sadly persistent. The employment situation survey breaks down unemployment statistics by group, and the data show unemployment continues to be higher than average among teenagers (23.4 percent), blacks (13.8 percent), and Hispanics (9.7 percent). Adult men and women have a roughly equal rate of (un)employment.

The number of long-term unemployed – out of work half a year or more – was 4.7 million, which is more than 38 percent of the total number of unemployed people.

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