January Employment

While the total number of jobs created in the first month of 2014 was greater than the final month of 2013, the figure was largely seen as disappointing because of higher expectations. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 113,000 people were added to payrolls to start the year. A consensus compiled by Bloomberg was looking for 181,000. Nonetheless, it was still an improvement over the dismal tally of 75,000 in December (upwardly revised from 74,000). Also included in the report was an upward revision of 33,000 to November’s tally. The unemployment rate dropped to 6.6 percent from 6.7 percent in the prior period.

Other components of the report were mixed. The average workweek stagnated and is currently 34.4 hours. Average hourly earnings were 0.2 percent higher, but that was after December’s tally was revised down to zero from up 0.1 percent. The long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) still represent 35.8 percent of the total unemployed; this group has fallen by 1.1 million in the last year, but it is not known if they found work or dropped out of the labor force.

The two most recent nonfarm payroll numbers have combined to be the worst two month total since December 2010 and January 2011. There has been a lot of talk about the weather and how it may be impacting this and other economic statistics. If the recent weakness has been largely caused by the polar vortex, the indicators and thus the economy may see a surge as winter thaws. If it is not caused by the hydrologic cycle, perhaps the climate of the economic cycle is changing. (by C. Cox)