WASHINGTON – The January jobs figures were a downer: Employers added just 113,000 jobs last month, far fewer than economists had expected. Job cuts by retailers and government agencies lowered overall hiring.
But the Labor Department report contained enough good news to sustain hopes that 2014 may be a solid year for the U.S. economy.
— Unemployment didn’t just fall to a five-year low of 6.6 per cent; it fell for the right reasons. Nearly 500,000 Americans poured into the job market last month, and 616,000 more people said they had jobs. Previous drops in the unemployment rate had occurred partly because many Americans gave up looking for work and therefore were no longer counted as unemployed.
— Factories, mines and construction firms hired at a healthy pace. These so-called goods-producing industries added 76,000 jobs in January, the most since January 2006. Hiring by goods producers is typically seen as a harbinger of an improved job market. They ramp up production when they think the economy is going to strengthen.
— The job market entered 2014 in better shape than previously believed. The Labor Department announced revisions Friday that added 369,000 jobs to U.S. payrolls last year. That means employers added 2.3 million jobs last year, or 194,000 a month, the most since 2005.