January Unemployment Rate Rises to 7.9%

...GOP, Dems spar over data

Paul Brandus (Feb. 1, 2013)

The new year has begun with an uptick in the nation's unemployment rate: it rose to 7.9% in January, from December's 7.8%. A separate report said the economy added 157,000 jobs added to the labor force, slightly below analyst expectations. 

White House ecoomic advisor Alan Krueger said the report "provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression." He pointed out that the U.S. private sector has now added 6.1 million jobs over 35 months, including 2.2 million for calendar year 2012.

Republicans scoffed that it's not enough. "If govt spending caused economic growth as POTUS (the president) believes," tweeted House Speaker John Boehner's office, "(the)  economy today should be booming, unemployment plummeting."

A quick look at the data: 

  • The number of unemployed: 12.3 million, Laboir Dept. says (January). Long-term unemployed (27 weeks+) 4.7M
  • January unemployment: Adult men: 7.3%: Adult women: 7.3%; Teens: 23.4%; Whites: 7.0%; Blacks: 13.8% Hispanics: 9.7%; Asians: 6.5%
  • Employment-population ratio (ratio of the total working age of the work force employed to the total working age population): 58.6%
  • The labor force participation rate (the % of workforce that has a job or is looking for one) remained 63.6% in Jan., Labor Dept. says
  • The broader unemployment rate remained 14.4%, govt. says. Definition
  • As usual, a strong link between education & jobs: Unemployment for ages 25+ with no HS degree: 12.0%. Those w/BA or higher: 3.7% (Dec.)
  • There were 804,000 discouraged workers in Jan., govt. says. (folks not currently looking for work because they think no jobs are available)
  • There were big revisions to the upside for November and December: 247,000 jobs created in Nov. (was 161K) & 196,000 in Dec. (was 155K), govt. data shows

As usual, it's worth noting that unemployment and jobs data come from two different government surveys. One surveys households (called the "household survey") the other employers (the "payroll survey"). The reports can produce conflicting results. The payroll survey asks companies and government  agencies how many people they employed during the month. Result: number of jobs gained or lost. The household survey asks folks if they have a job. If they say no, are they looking for one? If looking, they’re considered unemployed If you don't have a job - but are looking - you're counted as unemployed. If you don't have a job, but aren't looking, you're not counted. 

As for the often-asked "better off than four years ago" question: In January 2009, the economy lost -741,000 jobs. In January 2013, it gained +157,000. That's a four-year swing of +898,000.

-Paul Brandus 


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