Unemployment fell again in January, still over 8 percent

The U.S. unemployment rate fell 0.2 percent to 8.3 percent and employment rose by 243,000 jobs during the month of January, the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday.

The report adds that “job growth was widespread in the private sector, with large employment gains in professional and business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing. Government employment changed little over the month.”

The Bureau reports that unemployment rates (seasonally adjusted) for

  • adult men was 7.7 percent
  • blacks declined in January to 13.6 percent
  • adult women was 7.7 percent
  • teenagers was 23.2 percent
  • whites was 7.4 percent
  • Hispanics changed little and stood at 10.5 percent
  • Asians was 6.7 percent

The employment report adds that the number of long-term unemployed, that is, those who have been out of work for 27 weeks or more, “was little changed at 5.5 million and accounted for 42.9 percent of the unemployed.”

The employment report also indicates that in January, employment in leisure and hospitality “increased by 44,000, primarily in food services and drinking places,” which added 33,000 jobs, and that “since a recent low in February 2010, food services has added 487,000 jobs.”

The National Employment Law Project writes that with the January 2012 employment report, “job growth has averaged over 183,400 per month for the last five months and there have now been 23 straight months of employment growth.” It adds that the unemployment rate fell in January to the the lowest since February 2009.

The Employment Law Project adds that despite “sustained growth and the decline in the unemployment rate” still “nearly 24 million workers are either unemployed or underemployed, which means the ‘real’ unemployment rate is still over 15%. Nearly 43% of the unemployed have been out of work for six months or longer, and the average duration of unemployment is 40.1 weeks, or over nine months.”

“It would be a mistake to let this strong employment report distract the nation from the need to respond more aggressively to the continuing crisis of long-term unemployment,” the Employment Law Project adds.

Colorado Democratic Party Chair Rick Palacio said, “(Friday’s) news reinforces a steady growth trend for our economy, and we should all be encouraged that our prospects continue to improve. But today’s good news wasn’t inevitable; just three years ago, President Obama inherited an economy in free fall and shedding nearly 750,000 jobs a month. He made the tough calls, has taken political heat, but now America is taking consistent steps forward to the tune of 23 straight months of job growth.

“Already, we’ve seen that this good news for the country looks more like a political problem to Mitt Romney,” Palacio added in a prepared statement. “But after taking multiple positions on the Recovery Act, saying Detroit should go bankrupt, and preferring for the housing market to hit bottom at the expense of the middle class, Romney has no credibility. Not that he had any before, when his job creation record consisted of firing thousands of workers while he personally profited and leaving Massachusetts 47th in job creation. Still, Americans deserve a Republican candidate who isn’t rooting against their success for the next year.”

Scot Kersgaard contributed to this article.