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Wow! 243,000 New Jobs Created in January

The headline number from the Unemployment Report this morning showed 243,000 jobs were created, more than the highest estimated increase by any of the economists surveyed before the report was released (the average expected increase from the economist survey was 120,000 jobs). The unemployment rate fell to 8.3%, again lower than predicted, and certainly good news for President Obama. Job growth was nearly across the board – in retail, construction, manufacturing, business services, and the hotel and restaurant industry. You can believe all this if you want, or you can go into the details in the report for some interesting context.

First, ever since the credit crisis of 2008, there has been a trend in the unemployment report that shows a declining participation rate in the job market. While a whopping number of jobs were created in January, a far larger number of people left the labor force - 1,752,000 in fact. The percent of the total working population who did not have jobs rose to 36.7%, an all time high. It’s no wonder the unemployment rate fell, when the denominator shrinks so markedly. The total number of people employed fell by 737,000. So what do you want to celebrate – the 243,000 who got jobs, or the million or so people who dropped by the wayside and are no longer counted in the data?