The nation's payrolls expanded by 157,000 jobs in January, the unemployment rate edged up slightly to 7.9 percent and, in response to the U.S. Department of Labor's monthly jobs report Friday, the Dow busted 14,000 for the first time since October 2007.
"I'm terrified," said Mark Boyd, a former New Jersey labor commissioner who now heads Goodwill Industries of Southern New Jersey and Philadelphia, a job development organization.
Boyd obviously doesn't find an expanding stock market scary. But what bothers him are the long-term prospects for employment.
"I'm really concerned by what is happening in our economy," he said.
On Friday, Wall Street set those concerns aside. The Dow closed at 14,009, up 149 points for the day.
"The stock market liked the report," wrote Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight. "January jobs were nothing special, but the upward revisions to history were impressive.
"The uptick in the unemployment rate didn't hurt stocks," he said, "because it moves the rate further away from the 6.5 percent threshold at which the Fed would start to think about raising interest rates."
The revisions reported by the Labor Department hiked the number of jobs added in November from 161,000 to 247,000 and from 155,000 added in December to 196,000. The December unemployment rate had been 7.8 percent.
Jobs were added in construction, manufacturing and the service sector, while government hiring continued to decline, with the cuts on the federal and local levels. State government hiring expanded. Health-care hiring grew.
When Boyd served as the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Labor between 2000 and 2002, state unemployment was 3.8 percent.
In December, according to the most recent New Jersey data, the unemployment rate was 9.6 percent, and 9.8 percent in the tri-county area of Camden, Gloucester and Burlington.
"It's really a hard atmosphere for people to find jobs," Boyd said. Goodwill organization has increased its job-search services over the last year.
Boyd said that New Jersey's tax structure and regulatory environment discouraged hiring.
At the same time, there are too many low-skilled, unemployed people for the number of jobs available to that category of workers.
He said that employers seem to be cutting hours ahead of 2014 mandates to provide health benefits for full-time workers.
"People have to find that extra second or third or fourth job," Boyd said.
Most economists estimate that the economy must generate at least 100,000 jobs a month to keep up with population expansion.
Deducting the 100,000 "break-even" jobs from the 157,000 added in January, leaves 57,000 jobs to help erase the jobs deficit -- the 3.2 million fewer jobs on the nation's payrolls since the recession began in December 2007.
"Businesses are hiring, just not fast enough to get the unemployment rate down," commented Joel Naroff, president and chief economist of Naroff Economic Advisors Inc., in Bucks County.
Kevin Robins, chief executive of the MidAtlantic Employers' Association, a King of Prussia-based group that offers human resource consulting for 400 medium-sized business in the Philadelphia area, including New Jersey, is more optimistic.
"When I speak to owners, the mid-sized companies are proceeding forward cautiously" with hiring, he said.
In Pennsylvania, 86 percent of companies his organization surveyed in the 2012 fourth quarter planned to either maintain or expand their staffs in early 2013, he said.
In New Jersey, the percent was somewhat lower -- with 77 percent expecting to maintain or expand their staff, and 12.5 percent planning cuts.
Friday's report showed that even though the number of jobs increased, the problem of long-term unemployment persists.
In January, 4.7 million people remained unemployed beyond 27 weeks, a decline from 5.5 million a year ago. They still account for 38 percent of the people who are jobless.
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