Press reports homed in on the U.S. Labor Department’s revelation on Friday that jobs declined in January for the first time in four years. But Keith Hall, commissioner of the DoL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, also reported what may be an even grimmer statistic: month-over-month job growth plummeted last year.
It was a clear aerial shot of an overall economic slowdown. In 2007 payroll employment rose by an average of 95,000 per month, compared with an average of 175,000 per month in 2006, said Hall.
He also told the Joint Economic Committee of Congress that nonfarm payrolls shrunk by 17,000 in January. According to press reports, it was the first time the U.S. economy lost jobs since August 2003. But the BLS commissioner said the decline to 138.1 million nonfarm jobs was scant enough to produce a jobs figure that was “essentially unchanged” from what it was in December 2007, when employers added 82,000 new jobs. In addition, Hall reported that the unemployment rate was also basically flat at 4.9 percent in comparison to the previous month. In December, the rate had risen to 5 percent, according to press reports.
While the number of jobs in health care increased in January, employment dropped in construction and manufacturing, Hall said. Further, average hourly earnings rose by 4 cents in January, or 0.2 percent. From December 2006 to December 2007, average hourly earnings rose by 3.7 percent, compared with a rise in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers of 4.4 percent, according to the commissioner.