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Today's Bureau of Labor Statistics announcement of a seasonally adjusted 157,000 new jobs created in January is a far cry from the comparable report for 2009. Four years ago, before Barack Obama had been behind the big desk in the Oval Office for a full three weeks, the BLS released a brutal report. The seasonally adjusted loss then was 818,000 jobs, the worst loss since October 1949 and the fourth worst since the government started publishing monthly statistics in 1939.

By the time that report landed on Obama's desk, the BLS had already counted 3.6 million lost jobs over the previous 12 months. And the hemorrhaging did not stop for another year. By then the Great Recession had, in 25 months, carved 8.8 million jobs out of the economy, forced millions of Americans from full-time work into part-time jobs and pushed millions of others to abandon the labor force altogether. Officially, the unemployment rate rose to 10 percent, but that didn't come close to measuring the extent of the damage.

We are still far from having recovered from the recession's devastating effects. But this morning's BLS report marks the 28th month in which more jobs were gained than lost, a total of 4.6 million since President Obama took office. With their adamant opposition to economic stimulus other than tax cuts, that's far more jobs than would have been the case if Republicans had been in charge. And far fewer than would be the case if a truly adequate stimulus plan with New Deal-style programs had been pushed past GOP congressional blockades.

For January, the private sector expanded by 166,000 jobs. Governments at all levels lost 9,000 jobs, for that net gain of 157,000. The official unemployment rate rose to 7.9 percent. The consensus of experts surveyed by Bloomberg in the week before the announcement had predicted 185,000 new jobs and an unemployment rate of 7.7 percent.

The bureau sharply revised its previously reported growth in payroll employment for November from 161,000 to 247,000 and for December from 155,000 to 196,000. It counted 12.3 million Americans as officially unemployed. The number of Americans unemployed for six months or more fell to 4.7 million. The civilian labor force participation ratio remained steady at 63.6 percent; the employment-population ratio also held at 58.6 percent.

BLS also measures the job situation with an alternative gauge (called U6) that counts part-time workers who want full-time jobs and some but not all Americans who want jobs but have stopping looking for one. The U6 rate remained at 14.4 percent, the same as it has been since November.

(For more details about today's jobs report, please continue reading ...)

On Wednesday, TrimTabs Investment Research estimated that 135,000-155,000 new jobs had been created in January. The firm calculates payroll job growth based on daily tax deposits. Some analysts say TrimTabs' numbers are more accurate because it susses out many jobs from small companies that the BLS misses.

Automated Data Processing, one of the nation's largest payroll services companies, reported Thursday that, by its calculations, the economy generated 192,000 new private-sector jobs in January.

The BLS jobs report is the product of a pair of surveys, one of more than 410,000 business establishments called Current Employment Statistics, and one called the Current Population Survey, which questions 60,000 householders. The establishment survey determines how many new jobs were added, always calculated on a seasonally adjusted basis. The CPS provides data that determine the official "headline" unemployment rate, also known as "U3." That's the number which is now 7.9 percent.

As I frequently point out, the BLS report only provides a snapshot of what's happening at a single point in time. The jobs-created-last-month-numbers that it reports are not "real." Not because of a conspiracy, but because BLS statisticians apply seasonal adjustments to the raw data, estimate the number of jobs created by the "birth" and "death" of businesses, use other filters. In the fine print, they tell us that the actual number of newly created jobs reported is actually plus or minus 100,000.

That is, the actual number of jobs gained in January could have been as low as 57,000 or as high as 257,000. Which is one reason there are revisions announced every month for the two previous months plus additional "benchmark" revisions announced each February. The benchmark revision announced today raised the non-farm employment level for April 2011 to March 2012 by 422,000; that's 36,000 more than the BLS predicted would be the case last October. Revisions also found that for all of 2012, the average monthly jobs gain was 181,000 instead of the previously calculated 153,000.

•••

Here's what the job growth numbers looked like in January over the previous 10 years:

January 2003: +  95,000
January 2004: + 162,000  
January 2005: + 137,000
January 2006: + 283,000
January 2007: + 236,000
January 2008: +  41,000
January 2009: -  818,000
January 2010: -   40,000
January 2011: + 110,000
January 2012: + 275,000
January 2013: + 157,000

Among other changes in today's job report:

Health care: + 23,000
Retail trade: + 33,000
Transportion and warehousing: - 14,000
Construction: + 28,000
• The average workweek (for production and non-supervisory workers) remained unchanged at 34.4 hours.
• Average manufacturing hours rose to 40.6 hours.
• The average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls arose 4 cents to $23.78.

Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Fri Feb 01, 2013 at 05:57 AM PST.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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