The American economy added 175,000 new jobs in January, but about 90,000 of those jobs were needed just to keep up with population growth, so net job growth clocked in at 85,000. If we accept the notion that bad weather has been holding back the economy, that’s pretty good. If we don’t, it’s mediocre—but still better than the past couple of months of dismal job numbers.
The unemployment rate ticked up to 6.7 percent, caused almost entirely by an increase in the number of long-term unemployed. Since long-term unemployment isn’t much affected by weekly variations in the weather, my guess is that our severe winter hasn’t played a big role in the job picture. This is confirmed by the establishment data, which shows that construction employment is up while retail and IT employment are down. That’s not bulletproof evidence or anything, but it’s not the kind of thing you’d expect to see if weather were a big factor. It’s what you’d expect to see if consumer spending is weak.
Bottom line: we continue to plod along. Things could be worse, but they still aren’t very good.