The best thing to be said about the jobs news in January as opposed to the previous month is that it was quite a bit better.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the United States added some 49,000 jobs in January, a modest increase when it seemed, according to published reports, that many economists expected a growth between 50,000 and 100,000 jobs.
Still, a gain that helped the unemployment rate drop to 6.3 percent – a drop of about a half-percentage point — is better than the 140,000 jobs lost in December, with the leisure and hospitality industry taking a big hit.
The economy’s struggles in the face of the coronavirus pandemic is still showing. Bureau of Economic Analysis figures showed the economy grew by 1 percent in the last quarter of 2020, and the country has recovered only about half of the 22 million jobs it lost in the early months of the pandemic.
“Although both measures are much lower than their April 2020 highs, they remain well above their pre-pandemic levels,” the labor department noted, while pointing out that most of the growth last month was in the professional and business services and temporary help. “The labor market continued to reflect the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and efforts to contain it.”
Robert Frick, corporate economist at Navy Federal Credit Union, told CNBC the jobs numbers aren’t necessarily a cause for widespread celebration.
“Though we gained jobs in January after a December loss, this is not a we’ve-turned-the-corner report,” Frick said, according to the network. “We especially shouldn’t take solace that the unemployment rate fell dramatically given that’s mainly because more Americans dropped out of the labor force.”
All of these statistics were coming out as the U.S. Senate early Friday morning passed most of President Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID relief plan on a 51-50 vote, along party lines, with Vice President Kamala Harris casting the tie-breaking vote.
That measure now moves back to the U.S. House.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer D-N.Y., called passage of the resolution the “first big step to putting our country back on the road to recovery.”