Jobs Numbers, Unemployment Rate Holding Steady

The U.S. economy added 157,000 jobs in January and the unemployment rate rose .1% to 7.9% according to the just-released data from the Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. We’ve been hovering around 8.0% unemployment since September of  2012.

Nothing so very exciting about “holding steady.”

The nation may be adding jobs, but nowhere near at the pace needed to get us back to where we were pre-recession. There are still 12.3 million people out of work, 4.7 million of whom have been out of work for 27 weeks or longer and are therefore categorized as long-term unemployed. Consider also the 8 million people who are working part-time either because their hours were cut back or because they couldn’t find full-time work. The numbers for both the long-term unemployed and involuntary part-time workers are relatively unchanged from the previous survey a month ago.

These are people who we try to help at our JVS WorkSource Centers, by the way.

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Another bit of interesting information nestled in the BLS/jobs numbers was the fact that all durations of unemployment dropped sharply in January with the average spell falling by 2.8 weeks. Dean Baker of the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) attributes the drop-off to the shortening of the extended unemployment insurance benefits following the fiscal cliff deal.

“Since workers are required to look for jobs to get benefits, it appears that many of the unemployed stopped looking for work when their benefits expired and therefore are no longer counted as unemployed,” Baker writes. “In this way, shortening the period of unemployment benefits can lower the unemployment rate.”