Keeping you up to date on the latest data releases.
Nonfarm payrolls jumped up by 243,000 in January, following revisions to 2011 data that left the level of employment as of December 266,000 jobs higher than we previously thought. Importantly, the near term trajectory appears to be looking up. Average payroll growth over the past three months was 201,000, compared to an average gain of 152,000 in 2011. Private payroll growth was a little stronger than the overall gain in January, rising 257,000 (its strongest monthly gain since last April), as government sector employment continued to trend down (decreasing 14,000). Nearly every major private sector industry posted employment gains that either met or exceeded their near-term trends in January. The two exceptions were information sector payrolls (down 13,000) and employment in financial activities (down 5,000). Goods-producing employment posted its highest monthly gain since January 2006, rising 81,000 during the month, and was much improved relative to its 2011 average monthly gain of 33,000. Durable goods manufacturing payrolls rose by 50,000 in January, accounting for much of the overall gain in goods-producing payrolls.
On the service side, notable increases were seen in professional and business services employment (up 70,000—a 10 month high), and transportation and warehousing, which rose by 13,000 in January compared to an average gain of just 7,000 in 2011. Other indicators on the establishment side were mixed. Hours and earnings were little changed. However, the employment diffusion index (which measures the breadth of the employment gains) improved from 62.4 percent to 64.1 percent of firms adding to payrolls. And this improvement appears to be driven by a marked jump up in the manufacturing diffusion index, which rose from 64.2 percent to 69.1 percent in January—its highest level since January 2011.
Any signal of labor market improvement coming from the household side of the report should be weighed against a dramatic adjustment in the Bureau of Labor Statistics’s measurement of the annual population. The civilian noninstitutional population was revised up by 1.5 million people as of December 2011, with most of these individuals “entering” into existence outside the labor force. This led to a 0.3 percentage point drop in the labor force participation rate to 63.7 percent in January. On the other hand, the number of employed persons jumped by 847,000 in January, and the combination of various factors led to a decrease in the unemployment rate from 8.5 percent to 8.3 percent. It is important to note that despite the unusually large increase in the population and the strong January gain in employment, the employment-to-population ratio remained unchanged at 58.5 percent.