Friday, February 01, 2008

The January Employment Report

The headline number from today's employment report was a decline of 17,000 jobs in January. (Permanent link likely here.) This number is not significantly different from zero, so the BLS calls it "essentially unchanged." However, the point estimate at this point is the first negative number since August 2003, and that will likely dominate the news.

The January report is also where we see some revisions for calendar year 2007, and these are worth considering when trying to get a fix on where we are in the business cycle. Year-end nonfarm payroll employment was revised downward by 376,000 jobs relative to prior estimates. Very little of this revision pertained to the 4th quarter. Factoring in the January number, employment growth has averaged 66,000 over the last 4 months. That's weak growth in anybody's book.

Looking at the household survey, the unemployment rate was also "essentially unchanged" with a 0.1 percentage point decline. Digging a little deeper, the two alternative measures of unemployment that incorporate marginally attached workers (and in one, those employed part-time for economic reasons) ticked up by 0.2 percentage points. These numbers are presented in Table A-12 of the report.

For more on the details, read Barry Ritholz at The Big Picture.

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