So, the latest job market numbers indicate that the United States job market is surprisingly strong, thus raising the hopes that the economy is strong enough to endure the budget standoff in Washington and hopefully avoiding any deep cuts in federal spending. Employers added over 157,000 jobs last month. Oddly enough, unemployment remains high inching up to 7.9 percent in December.
Many economists, though, focused on the steady job growth — especially the healthier-than-expected hiring late last year. The Labor Department revised its estimates of job gains for November from an initial 161,000 to 247,000 and for December from 155,000 to 196,000. “The significantly stronger payroll gains tell us the economy has a lot more momentum than what we had thought. Numbers do frequently, however, often show dramatic changes in November and December and this was an election year.
Beyond the job market, the economy is showing other signs of health. Factories were busier last month than they have been since April 2012. Ford, Chrysler and General Motors all reported double-digit sales gains for last month, their best January in five years.
Home prices have been rising steadily. Higher home values tend to make Americans feel wealthier and more likely to spend. Housing construction is recovering, too. Construction spending rose last year for the first time in six years and is expected to add 1 percentage point to economic growth this year.
The housing rebound appears finally to be producing a long-awaited return of construction-industry jobs, which have typically help drive economic recoveries. Construction companies added 28,000 jobs in January. Over the past three months, construction has added 82,000 jobs — the best quarterly increase since 2006. Even with the gains, construction employment is about 2 million below its housing-bubble peak of 7.7 million in April 2006.
Health care employers added 28,000 jobs in January. Retailers added 33,000, and hotels and restaurants 17,000. The job growth in retail, hotels and restaurants suggests that employers have grown more confident about consumer spending, which fuels about 70 percent of the economy.
The government uses a survey of mostly large businesses and government agencies to determine how many jobs are added or lost each month. That’s the survey that produced the gain of 157,000 jobs for January.
So it turns out the fears were exaggerated. Fortunately, in the midst of a controversial election and threatened budget fights, employers kept hiring. The steady hiring gains should help cushion the economic pain from higher Social Security taxes, which last month began shrinking most workers’ take-home pay.
Long-term unemployment remains a chronic problem. About 4.7 million people have been out of work for six months or more. That’s down 15 percent in the past year. But it’s still much higher than it’s ever been after previous recessions. The job search has been frustrating: Most of the jobs he’s seen advertised are part-time or freelance. Permanent jobs with salaries and benefits seem to him nonexistent.
Source: Writers, Paul Wiseman and Christopher S. Rugaber, AP Economics. “Report: US Job Market Looks Surprisingly Strong.” Yahoo! News. Yahoo!, 01 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Feb. 2013