February 3, 2012

The January 2012 Employment Situation Summary (020312): Unemployment at 8.3%, 243K Seasonally Adjusted Job Adds (See Updates)

Filed under: Economy,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:45 am

From the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bolds are mine):

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 243,000 in January, and the unemployment rate decreased to 8.3 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Job growth was widespread in the private sector, with large employment gains in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Government employment changed little over the month.

… Household Survey Data

The unemployment rate declined by 0.2 percentage point in January to 8.3 percent; the rate has fallen by 0.8 point since August. The number of unemployed persons declined to 12.8 million in January. (See the note and tables B and C for information about annual population adjustments to the household survey estimates.)

Establishment Survey Data

Total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 243,000 in January. Private-sector employment grew by 257,000, with the largest employment gains in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and
manufacturing. Government employment was little changed over the month. (See table B-1.)

… The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for November was revised from +100,000 to +157,000, and the change for December was revised from +200,000 to +203,000. Monthly revisions result from additional sample reports and the monthly recalculation of seasonal factors. The annual benchmark process also contributed to these revisions.

Immediate reax: This looks to have been a pretty good month by Obama administration recovery standards, and I believe it beat most predictions. Too bad it took 31 months after the recession’s end to get to this point, it still isn’t as impressive as most months during the Reagan-Era 1980s recovery, and the gap between where we are and where we should be is still at least six million jobs and a couple of points in the unemployment rate.

More will come later when I look at the not seasonally adjusted numbers (i.e., the underlying reality).

UPDATE 1: Reality intrusion, from ZeroHedge (link to related data) –

Record 1.2 Million People Fall Out Of Labor Force In One Month, Labor Force Participation Rate Tumbles To Fresh 30 Year Low

So as the labor force increased from 153.9 million to 154.4 million, the non institutional population increased by 242.3 million meaning, those not in the labor force surged from 86.7 million to 87.9 million.

Table C at the BLS report (near the bottom) would appear to indicate that this is a result of “adjustments for population control effects.” It seems that these adjustments, all booked in January, could have been (and maybe should have been) spread over the previous 12 months. But even though it’s a result reflecting on something which has happened during the past year and not all in one month, it still indicates that the dropping-out phenomenon is an ongoing problem.

UPDATE 2: Good news is that the comprehensive annual revision added 266,000 jobs to the December 2011 labor force (see Table A at today’s report). That beats what we’ve seen in several previous years, where the adjustment has usually been negative, and to a much greater extent).

UPDATE 3: The raw data indicate that the past two months have been pretty good by the standards of last decade’s relatively good years –


In total nonfarm, December’s not seasonally adjusted figure is right in there with every year except 2006, and the seasonal translation looks a bit generous. January’s raw nonfarm number is right in there with no exceptions, and the seasonal result compares reasonably.

In the private sector, December’s raw number was again as good as any number except 2006, but the seasonal translation looks far too generous. January’s raw private-sector number is also in the 2003-2006 range, and the seasonal translation is consistent.

UPDATE 4: Seasonally adjusted per the Household Survey, the number of full-timers increased by 110,000 80,000 from December, a significant slowdown from previous months. Full-time employment is still down 8.03 million from its November 2007 peak, and by 6.92 million from the end of May 2008, which is roughly when the POR (Pelosi-Obama-Reid) Economy began.

UPDATE 5: Others –

  • Heritage — In reality, the economy is recovering despite — not because of — Obama’s policies. Make no mistake: 243,000 jobs is good, but we should be seeing numbers upwards of 350,000. America can and should do better.
  • Pethokoukis: “If size of the U.S. labor force as a share of the total population was  the same as it was when Barack Obama took office — 65.7 percent then vs. 63.7 percent today – the U-3 unemployment rate would be 11.0 percent.


  1. In the charts you can use category:

    Job Market Competition

    Industry Employment Trends

    Oil Job Trends

    Of course my favorite table

    Unemployment Rates for Metropolitan Areas

    Unemployed? Pack your bags and move like your forebears. That is the starting premise of the American Dream. If millions of illegals can come to this country, you can move to another state.

    Chart 1 of the Help Wanted Index

    disregard the red line as it is seasonally adjusted unemployment, but none the less a useful chart to indicate since May 09 to January 2011 there has been a rising trend but note the flat lining since beginning of 2011.

    Comment by dscott — February 3, 2012 @ 10:28 am

  2. Tables 5, 6 & 7 of the JOLTS survey gives the data where the hiring is and where the drops in employment are occurring. Unfortunately, they don’t give graphs of the NOT Seasonally adjusted data to see what’s really going on.


    Comment by dscott — February 3, 2012 @ 10:53 am

  3. #2, Well at least the data is there. Nov. 11 vs. Nov. 10 comparisons seem to be showing some strength.

    Comment by TBlumer — February 3, 2012 @ 11:10 am

  4. When something’s too good to be true it usually is:

    GOP Rep. West: Someone’s ‘playing around with’ unemployment numbers


    In response to news that the overall unemployment rate had dropped to 8.3 percent and the unemployment rate in the black community declined from 15.8 percent to 13.6 percent, West floated the possibility that the numbers might have been cooked…

    …”If a large proportion of the persons exiting from the labor force were black (and the exists [sic] presumably were due to people giving up on looking for work) that could drop the black [unemployment] rate without any significant new employment,” Darity wrote. “But a one month drop in the black unemployment rate from 15.8% to 13.6% strikes me as somewhat unprecedented.”

    Comment by dscott — February 5, 2012 @ 10:19 am

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