The American economy added 113,000 new jobs in January, but about 90,000 of those jobs were needed just to keep up with population growth, so net job growth clocked in at 23,000. That’s two consecutive months of dismal job growth numbers.
On the bright side, the headline unemployment rate declined from 6.7 percent to 6.6 percent, and this wasn’t just a matter of people dropping out of the labor force. The number of employed persons was up over 600,000 and the labor force participation ratio ticked up a couple of tenths.
As always, though, the unemployment numbers come from the household survey, while the job growth number comes from the payroll survey, which is much larger and thus more reliable. The employment numbers hint that things might be better than we think, but it’s only a hint. Overall, this is a very weak jobs report, and coming on the heels of a weak December report, they suggest that the American economy is still pretty fragile.