NEW YORK (CNNMoney) (Feb 7,2014) — After a chilly month for job growth in December, hiring warmed up a bit in January. But not by much.
The U.S. economy added 113,000 jobs last month, according to the government. That’s an improvement from December, but was far weaker than hoped. Economists had been expecting an addition of 178,000 jobs.
They called the report “disappointing” and “weak,” but characterized broader economic growth as “steady-as-she-goes.”
“The U.S. economy is very stable,” said Julia Coronado, chief economist, North America for BNP Paribas. “2014 might not be a breakout year, but it’s not a disaster either.”
Many economists had also been hoping that December’s weak job gains would be revised much higher, as many experts were quick to write off the December report as a fluke. The number was revised higher, but only by 1,000 jobs to 75,000.
Lowest unemployment in 5 years, but: The unemployment rate was 6.6% in January, as 10 million Americans were counted as unemployed. Overall, the unemployment rate has improved substantially since it peaked at 10% in 2009 and is now at its lowest level in more than five years.
That said, much of the decline in unemployment has come for a discouraging reason: some Americans are dropping out of the labor force. As of January, only 63% of Americans over age 16 participated in the labor market — meaning they either had a job or looked for one. Although there was a slight improvement in January, participation is still hovering around its lowest level since 1978.
While some of the decline is partly due to baby boomers retiring, economists are also concerned about the long-term unemployed, who may be giving up on the job market altogether. Following the report, one of President Obama’s top economic advisers, Jason Furman called the unemployment rate still “unacceptably high.”