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Mixed news on US jobs

01/02/13 15:49 CET

US employers added 157,000 workers to their payrolls in January, and along with that modest growth it turns out the gains for November and December were bigger than initially reported.

This all supports the view that the US economy’s sluggish recovery is on track, despite a surprise contraction in GDP late last year.

The closely watched report also showed an increase in hourly earnings and solid gains in construction and retail employment.

“This is actually a really good number when you take into account the net upward revision,” said Terry Sheehan, an economic analyst at Stone & McCarthy Research Associates in Princeton, New Jersey.

However the unemployment rate edged up to 7.9 percent, from December’s 7.8 percent. For all of last year the rate was 8.1 percent.

Newly revised figures show job growth last year averaged 181,000 a month. That is not enough to significantly reduce unemployment.

Economists say the total has to be over 250,000 a month for a sustained period to get the US economy truly growing again.

Overshadowing jobs growth is the failure of politicians in the US Congress to agree on government spending reductions and tax increases.

Instead automatic draconian cuts have come into force which have had a dramatic effect on economic growth threatening the loss of hundreds of thousand of jobs.

At the White House, economist Alan Krueger said the jobs report shows the US economy is improving, but Congress needs to act on policies that promote growth and avoid deep cuts slated to take effect next month.

“The administration continues to urge Congress to move toward a sustainable federal budget in a responsible way that balances revenue and spending… while making critical investments in the economy that promote growth and job creation,” Krueger said in a blog post.

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