Quick Takes | Jobs and Unemployment

Labor market moving in two directions at the same time

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The January employment report shows the labor market moving in two directions at the same time, with employers reporting disappointing payroll job growth of only 36,000, but households reporting large employment gains (after removing the effect of new population weights). Some of the lack of payroll jobs growth can be chalked up to unusually cold weather in January and snowstorms in the Midwest and Northeast during the reference week. Given the confounding nature of this report, we will have to wait at least another month to see if the labor market is rebounding strongly.
Aside from today’s muddled picture, one thing is crystal clear: The U.S. labor market started 2011 with half a million fewer jobs than it had eleven years ago, in January 2000, though the labor force has grown by nearly 11 million workers since then. Today’s numbers are a testament to both the enormity of the current labor market crisis plus the very weak jobs growth of the 2000-2007 business cycle. –Heidi Shierholz


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