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Halfhearted hiring not enough to keep jobless rate flat

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The U.S. economy maintained its halfhearted hiring pace in January by adding 157,000 jobs to payrolls, which wasn't enough to stop the unemployment rate from ticking up to 7.9 percent, from 7.8 percent in December 2012, the U.S. Department of Labor reported today.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the private sector added 166,000 jobs in January, and while employment growth in the goods-producing sector again lagged the service-providing industries, the construction and manufacturing sectors increased employment by a combined 32,000 jobs.

On the public side, state governments added 2,000 jobs last month, but the federal and local levels shed a total of 11,000 jobs, which weighed down overall growth and resulted in total nonfarm employment growth of 157,000 jobs in January.

Though January’s jobs number reflected a slow but steady hiring pace, Labor said a total of 142,000 more jobs were created in the two prior months than it originally reported, as November employment was revised upward, from 146,000 jobs to 247,000 jobs, and December employment also improved, from 155,000 jobs to 196,000 jobs.

That revised two-month employment gain of 443,000 jobs significantly outpaces the 301,000 jobs Labor first said were added to the national economy in November and December, and with those revisions, the pace of hiring in 2012 exceeded employment growth in 2011, as the economy gained an average of 188,000 jobs per month last year, and 153,000 jobs per month the previous year.

“This was an encouraging report in several ways. Job growth at the start of the year was consistent with expectations, and the gain of 166,000 private-sector jobs indicates that the weak fourth-quarter GDP numbers did not impact the labor markets going into 2013,” said Joseph Seneca, an economist at the Bloustein School of Public Policy at Rutgers University. “Depending on the outcome of fiscal cliff déjà vu issues, national employment gains should average in the 175,000- to 200,000-per-month range for 2013.”

Aside from construction and manufacturing, industry sectors that recorded significant monthly job growth included retail, with 32,600 jobs; education and health services, with 25,000 jobs; and leisure and hospitality, with 23,000 jobs.

A measure of January private-sector employment by Roseland-based Automatic Data Processing and Moody’s Analytics, which uses employer payroll data, showed businesses added 192,000 jobs in the month. That report was published earlier this week.

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