- Al Sharpton, Trayvon Martin’s parents rally against Fla. ‘stand your ground’ law
- Hillary Clinton campaign got illicit funds from D.C. scandal figure
- Obama administration backs off plan to cut prescription-drug program
- Tickets linked to stolen passports purchased by Iranian middleman
- More than 3,500 police planned for Boston Marathon
- Ottawa day care suspends 2-year-old for ‘outside’ cheese sandwich
- Liam Neeson tells NYC mayor to ‘man up’ in horse carriage fight
- Real-life Dr. Doolittle to reveal how to talk to animals
- Climate change could bring back smallpox, researchers say
- Shoe-bomb witness to speak from London at N.Y. trial
Unemployment rate fell to 9% in January
The nation's unemployment rate plunged from 9.4 percent to 9 percent last month apparently as thousands of people decided to sit out snowstorms and suspended their search for work, the Labor Department reported Friday morning.
The big snowstorms and extremely cold weather that hit the Northeast, Midwest and other broad swaths of the country also kept employers from adding many people to payrolls during the month. Only 36,000 new jobs were created -- far less than the 150,000 openings that economists had predicted.
Construction employment was hit particularly hard, plummeting by 32,000, and courier and messenger services laid off a lot of people after the Christmas holidays. But even the professional and business services sector -- which is the largest source of jobs in the economy most of the time -- generated only 31,000 last month, about half the recent pace of jobs gains there.
"Weather," was the one word used by John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities, to explain the many surprises in last month's jobs report.
The department estimated that bad weather kept 707,000 Americans from working during the month, more than twice the average number of absences in January of 282,000 over the past five years, he said.
But even though the weather was unusually severe, the reaction by workers and employers was surprising, since usually it prompts them to cut back on hours, not on jobs, he said.
"Weather usually hits the average workweek more than the job count since even if a worker shows up just one day they are still employed," he said. The average workweek declined by only 0.1 hour to 34.2 hours in January while wage gains held up at just under 2 percent over the year.
The plunge in the unemployment rate, which hovered near 10 percent for most of last year, was particularly startling and was concentrated among men and Hispanics. It was the second month in a row for such a large drop, and suggests that thousands of people are simply giving up their search for work and leaving the labor force.
Revisions published by the department show that overall about 452,000 fewer people had jobs at the end of last than previously estimated.
Heidi Shierholz, an economist for the Economic Policy Institute, said the overall report was "muddled" by last month's extreme weather, but said the downward revision in the number of jobs generated by the economy last year provided a dismal footnote to the already depressing and historic job losses recorded during the recession.
"One thing is crystal clear: The U.S. labor market started 2011 with half a million fewer jobs than it had 11 years ago," Ms. Shierholz said. That points to the "enormity of the current labor market crisis," she said.
The report seemed to dash hopes among many analysts that the job market would start to pick up after signs that the broader economic recovery accelerated at the turn of the year.
"Given the confounding nature of this report, we will have to wait at least another month to see if the labor market is rebounding strongly," Ms. Shierholz said.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
- Employers add 175K in February; unemployment rose to 6.7 percent
- Chevron scores court win in $9B Ecuador rainforest case
- Moscow shakes up the financial world
- Siberian shale find fuels Russia's fracking future
- Comcast acquisition deal for Time Warner primed to transform the cable box
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
By David Keene
Conference showed that the values Reagan cherished still endure
- Hillary Clinton campaign received funds from Jeffrey Thompson
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Senate Democrats, Republicans spar over restoring unemployment benefits
- Mitch McConnell on beating tea party: 'We are going to crush them'
- CARNES: Kissinger's flawed and offensive analysis of Ukraine
- Atheists sue to remove 'Ground Zero Cross' from 9/11 museum
- SAUERBREY: Taxing Marylanders until they flee
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- Sharyl Attkisson resigns from CBS after months of talks
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again