By Miles Moore, Senior Washington Reporter
WASHINGTON (Feb. 5, 2016) — The robust growth exhibited over the last half year was not present in the Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) latest jobs report, leading some observers to predict the economy is in a cooling off period.
Total nonfarm payroll employment in the U.S. rose by 151,000 jobs in January 2016, according to the latest figures from the BLS.
The unemployment rate inched down to 4.9 percent from the 5.0-percent rate of the previous few months, the BLS said in its Feb. 5 release.
Retail trade enjoyed the biggest job increase during the month, up 58,000 jobs, the BLS said. There were also strong showings in food services and drinking places (up 47,000 jobs), health care (up 37,000 jobs), manufacturing (up 29,000 jobs) and financial activities (up 18,000 jobs), the agency said.
However, professional and business services gained only 9,000 jobs during the month, while other employment sectors fell sharply, according to the BLS.
Private educational services lost 39,000 jobs in January, due to larger-than-normal seasonal layoffs, the agency said. Transportation and warehousing fell by 20,000 jobs, though most of these losses were among couriers and messengers. Mining employment fell by 7,000 jobs, the BLS said.
There often are sharp differences between the monthly BLS employment figures and those from payroll services ADP Inc. But the January report from ADP — which bases its figures on its own payroll data — diverged particularly from the BLS figures in that it said that manufacturing gained zero jobs during January. The BLS manufacturing employment figure was by far the strongest in months.
The U.S. increased its nonfarm payroll employment by 205,000 jobs during January, according to ADP.
This included 47,000 jobs among businesses with 1 to 19 employees; 32,000 among businesses with 20 to 49 employees; 82,000 among businesses with 50 to 499 employees; 15,000 among businesses with 500 to 999 employees; and 30,000 among businesses with 1,000 or more employees.
Of the 205,000 jobs created, 192,000 were in service-oriented industries and only 13,000 in goods-oriented businesses, ADP said.
Jobs increased by 20,000 in franchise businesses, it said, including 3,810 among auto parts stores and auto dealers.
The day before the BLS issued its January report, the National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB) projected job growth in the low 200,000 range and a reduced unemployment rate.
Fifteen percent of respondents to the NFIB's January 2016 Jobs Report said that “finding qualified workers was their single most important business problem,” said NFIB Chief Economist William C. Dunkelberg.
“That makes it the third biggest problem for small business owners behind taxes and regulations and red tape, the highest reading since 2007,” Mr. Dunkelberg said. “Employers are paying more in order to attract and keep good employees.”
The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) noted the improvement in the government's manufacturing employment figures. However, it also pointed to a gloomy international trade report from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, issued the same day as the BLS figures.
According to the trade report, the overall trade deficit for the U.S. totaled $758.9 billion in 2015, with the trade deficit in manufacturing hit $831.4 billion, the AAM noted. The trade deficit with China alone was $365.7 billion for the year, it said.
“The 29,000 factory jobs gained in January is good news, but it's certainly no indication of an upward trend,” said AAM President Scott Paul. “Many dangers persist, including a strong dollar, China's economic weakness and its massive industrial overcapacity.
“It strikes me as an inopportune time to be pushing a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) that is projected to cost America more than 121,000 factory jobs,” said Mr. Paul, quoting projections from a recent report by the Peterson Institute of International Economics.
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