Several positive trends continued in January. Firms added 52,000 temporary workers and increased hours, just as they did in December, hinting at growing if cautious optimism. Employment rose in health, education and professional services, and retail employment grew by 42,000 in January, on a seasonally adjusted basis, after declining in December. Manufacturing employment also grew, by 11,000, the first increase since the beginning of recession. Analysts point out that the adjustment of the data is tricky around the holiday season, and actual underlying employment may have grown in January.
But many economists may view this release as more disappointing than the previous month’s figure. The Labour Department published the results of its annual benchmark revision of previous employment data. Through the 12 months to March 2009, the American economy lost 930,000 more jobs than had been previously estimated. It now appears that over 700,000 jobs were lost in each of the first three months of last year, a significantly worse performance than originally thought. Meanwhile, data for the last two months of 2009 were revised to show a larger increase in employment in November, but a larger decline in December, for a net drop of 5,000 jobs relative to previous reports.
And while the employment-population ratio increased slightly from December to January, and off record lows, the problem of the long-term unemployed continues to grow. Just over 41% of all unemployed workers, over 6.3m workers, have been out of work for 27 weeks or more.
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