News Column

Nonfarm Job Numbers Disappoint Again

February 11, 2014

Isaac Cohen --

construction worker
Nonfarm jobs disappointed in January despite a rise in construction (file photo)

For the second consecutive month, the creation of nonfarm jobs in the U.S. economy was a disappointment.

Last week, the Labor Department informed that 113,000 new jobs were created in January, better than the 75,000 created in December, but less than the monthly average of 180,000 in 2013.

The report included some positive signs. In January, the unemployment rate decreased to 6.6 percent, from 6.7 percent in December. This was caused by an increase in the labor force, instead of the reduction in labor force participation which characterized recent decreases in the unemployment rate.

By sectors, most surprising was the largest increase in four years in construction hiring -- 48,000 new jobs, after a decrease of 22,000 in December.

By contrast, retail and even the resilient health-care sector and the government, all lost jobs in January.

Related: Hispanic Unemployment Flattens Out

The unemployment rate will soon reach the 6.5 percent figure identified by the central bank as a threshold. This will signal the start of the discussion of a change in the more than five-year-old policy of keeping interest rates close to zero.

However, the central bank has also said low interest rates may persist, even if the unemployment rate declines to less than 6.5 percent, if inflation remains -- as it has -- under the target of 2 percent.


Isaac Cohen is an international analyst and consultant, a commentator on economic and financial issues for CNN en Espaņol TV and radio, and a former director, UNECLAC Washington Office.

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