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The January jobs report: It’s all good

By Ezra Klein,

The strangest thing about January’s jobs report is that it’s pretty much all good. The headline numbers are great, of course: payrolls are up by 243,000 jobs. Unemployment is down to 8.3 percent. But the inside numbers are good, too.

Let’s start with where the jobs were created. Professional and business services added 70,000 positions. Manufacturing added 50,000. Leisure and hospitality was up by 44,000. Health care was up by 33,000. For comparison, in the December jobs report, more than 40,000 of the 200,000 new jobs were “messengers and couriers,” which seemed likely to be seasonal hiring. Not so this month.

Revisions are positive, too. November goes from 100,000 new jobs to 157,000 new jobs. December goes from 200,000 new jobs to 203,000 new jobs. So the real number for the just-released jobs report is 303,000 jobs: that’s how many we added in January, plus what we just added to the numbers from November and December. Nicely done, economy.

The report also deals at least a slight blow to the case for economic pessimism. For months, forecasters have been telling us that though the end of 2011 was strong for the economy, the data showed the beginning of 2012 would be weak. That could still prove true. But we’re not seeing a slowdown in January’s payrolls. Just the opposite, actually.

Which isn’t to say there aren’t some areas of concern. We lost another 14,000 public-sector jobs in January. And though we have now had 23 straight months of job growth, we’re not seeing nearly enough improvement among the long-term unemployed.

The bottom line is that this isn’t just a good jobs report. It’s a recovery jobs report. It’s showing the sort of numbers that win elections. As my colleague Neil Irwin tweeted, “That sound you hear is champagne corks in the West Wing.”

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