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U.S. Economy Grows, But at Weaker Rate Than Expected
The latest figures on the economy were released by the Bureau of Labor, and there were some good signs, along with some not-so-good. Here’s the news.

Unemployment Rate


Since the month of January, the unemployment rate posted slightly better figures with the number now sitting at 6.6% from 6.7% before. It’s not a huge gain, but when considered how many previously unemployed people now have work, any positive number is better than no number. Further boosting the warily good news is a jobless rate that’s decreased by 0.6% since October. Growth is slow, but there’s growth.

Job Growth


The bar that economists had set for a healthy job growth was 185,000 new jobs.

Only 113,000 were added.

Even worse, only 74,000 new jobs were added in December, a number that economists hoped would be revised far upward. But when the new report came out, it was only revised upward to 75,000. In turn, this economic slowdown is leading some economists to worry that the Federal Reserve isn’t doing a good enough job measuring how long economic stimulus is needed and when it should be tapered off.

Part-Time Jobs


Involuntary part-time employment fell by quite a bit—514,000—to a total of 7.3 million in January. If the part-time jobs were replaced by full-time jobs—the kind that contribute to the economy positively by reinstating a middle class—then this number wouldn’t be so alarming. But as seen above, the number of jobs added fell below what economists had expected by about 40%. But a bit of silver lining emerges when considering what it means to be employed part-time for economic reasons: work part-time because of cut hours, or an inability to find full-time work. That this number fell means this situation is occurring to half a million fewer Americans.

Marginal Attachment


This demographic is the same as the unemployed, but with a few key differences:

  • Not in the labor force
  • Wanted, and were available for, work
  • Looked for a job in the last year
  • Hadn’t searched for a job in January
  •  

    There were 2.6 million marginally attached persons in January, which doesn’t represent much change from the same time last year. The Bureau of Labor also counts discouraged workers among the marginally attached, with the difference being how it sounds: a portion of the population who don’t believe there’s a job for them, so they don’t search for one. Their number (837,000) was also pretty unchanged from the same time last year.

     


    Analysis: While any growth can be argued to be better than none, the numbers aren’t improving as much as economists would have liked. Still, it’s only February and there are still 11 more months for growth to continue upward in a more positive trend.

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