January jobless rate stays at 4.1%; Firms claim to create 196K jobs

WASHINGTONThe U.S. unemployment rate stayed at 4.1 percent in January, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. Firms claimed to create a net of 196,000 new jobs last month, a separate survey showed, while governments added 4,000, all in the federal government and the Postal Service.


Some 6.684 million people were jobless in January, BLS added. Because BLS changes its survey each January to account for new national population data and trends, the agency cautioned it could not make the normal comparisons with the month before. But under the old population figures, there were 6.576 million jobless in December 2017.


Economic Policy Institute senior analyst Elise Gould noted the private sector job gains in January were slightly more than in the prior 11 months of GOP President Donald Trumps reign. Overall, firms created an average of 176,000 jobs monthly since Trump took office.


But both figures are below average monthly job creation during Democratic President Barack Obamas last five years in office, when the economy was recovering from the Great Recession, also called the Bush Crash.


And while Trump boasted in his State of the Union address about a record low African-American jobless rate in December, 6.8 percent, the low lasted one month. African-American joblessness jumped to 7.7 percent in January, Gould pointed out.


Low overall unemployment provides disproportionate benefits to workers of color, but the persistence of this 2-to-1 ratio in black and white joblessness reminds us we need to mobilize all levers of policy, Gould explained. While much progress has been made, wage growth is sluggish, labor force participation is below full employment levels, and pockets of weakness in the job market remain.


Factories claimed to add 15,000 jobs in January, to 12.555 million. Most of the gains were in machinery plants (+5,400 jobs) and transportation equipment factories (+5,700 despite a 300-job loss at auto plants). That left 526,000 (3.4 percent) of factory workers jobless.


Construction firms claimed to add 36,000 jobs, with 73 percent of them at specialty trade contractors, to 7.099 million. That still left 707,000 (7.3 percent) jobless factory workers. Construction union leaders reiterate the official jobless rate understates unemployment in their industry, as a worker is counted as employed for the full month if he or she works for just one day during the BLS survey week.


As usual, the lowest-paying areas of the service sector led the way in job creation. All service firms claimed to create 139,000 net new jobs in January. Retail trade (+15,400 jobs, virtually all in clothing stores), health care (+20,600) and bars and restaurants (+31,100) led the way. But while bars and restaurants added workers, their workers lost hours (-0.2) and pay: $1.36 a week, down to $338.89, by far the lowest, as usual, among major job sectors.

Source: PAI