Make it back-to-back disappointing employment reports for Wall Street to deal with, as the Labor Department, on the heels of a weak December non-farm payroll report, chimed in with a second lackluster result in as many months earlier this morning.
Specifically, the government reported that the nation has added 113,000 new positions last month. That was below the consensus forecast of 185,000 new jobs. Many will blame the weather, which undoubtedly was a factor, as the average temperature last month was the lowest for any January in more than a quarter of a century, at least in some locales.
Meanwhile, the December jobs total was revised ever so slightly from a gain of 74,000 to an increase of 75,000. In November, the gain was revised more notably, going from 241,000 to 274,000. Taking the three months, as a whole, the monthly average came to 154,000. That is a pedestrian total, to be sure, but not an alarmingly low number that would figure to disrupt the orderly expansion in our economy.
At the same time, the unemployment rate ticked down from December's 6.7% to 6.6% in January. That decline also was in line with expectations. Unfortunately, with a low job creation total, the assumption is that the nation's labor force is shrinking. That is, many former job seekers are no longer activity looking for work. When that happens, they cease to be part of the labor force. Overall, the number of those technically viewed as unemployed held steady at 10.2 million. All told, the unemployment rate has dropped by 0.6% since October, and is now at the lowest level since October of 2008.
Encouragingly, the number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks, or longer) declined by 232,000 last month to 3.6 million. Such individuals accounted for 35.8 percent of the workforce. The number of long-term unemployed has fallen by 1.1 million over the past year.
Finally, those working part time for economic reasons (sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers) fell by 514,000 to 7.3 million in January. That, too, was a somewhat encouraging trend.
Taken as a whole, although this was hardly an uplifting report, it was not a disaster by any means. In fact, our confidence that the economy remains on a modest and generally stable long-term forward course has not been disturbed, although the harsh winter weather is cause for some short-term concern.
At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.