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Economy Added 157,000 Jobs in January

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The Labor Department announced that the U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs in January. The unemployment rate inched upward by a tenth of a point, to 7.9 percent.

The jobs figure was in line with expectations. It’s a decent number, enough to keep pace with population growth, but not enough to make any real headway on the unemployment rate, which remains stubbornly high. More and more people are reentering the labor force, which requires the economy to add even more jobs in order to bring the rate down. As of last month, at least 12.3 million Americans were looking for work but could not find a job.

It’s better news for the economy than what was announced earlier this week: that the economy contracted by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, the first time it has shrunk since the Great Recession ended years ago. The contraction was due largely to drops in government spending, which is similar to what was seen in Friday’s jobs report. In it, private companies added 166,000 jobs, while government shed 9,000 positions.

Jobs numbers for 2012 were revised upward. Previously it was thought that average monthly job growth for the year was about 153,000, but that number was raised to 181,000, showing that the economy was actually a bit stronger than most people thought. The rise is due largely to revisions to November and December’s results. November’s jobs-added total was changed from 161,000 to 247,000, and December’s was bumped up from 155,000 to 196,000.

[Wall Street Journal, Labor Dept.]

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