Strong Job Growth Pushes Unemployment Rate Down

By Toni Vranjes

February 3, 2012

Last month, strong employment growth sent the jobless rate down to 8.3 percent — the lowest level in nearly three years.

Employers created 243,000 new jobs in January. Meanwhile, employment gains for the previous two months were revised upward. According to the revised figures, the economy added 203,000 jobs in December and 157,000 in November.

The jobless rate has been on the decline for several months. It was stuck at 9.1 percent from June through August, but it has been falling ever since then.

The labor-force participation rate held at 63.7 percent in January, after accounting for annual adjustments to population controls, according to the Labor Department.

Meanwhile, a separate survey of households showed employment gains of 631,000. The household survey is used to calculate the unemployment rate.

“The unemployment rate came down because more people found work,” President Obama said today during a visit to a Virginia fire station.

The employment growth beat economists’ expectations, and the growth was spread throughout many areas of the economy. The “professional and business services” industry — which includes legal, accounting, advertising, engineering and other types of firms — added 70,000 jobs. Manufacturing employment expanded by 50,000, health care added 31,000 jobs, and construction increased by 21,000. Also, employment grew by 44,000 in the “leisure and hospitality” industry, which includes hotels, restaurants and theme parks.

During the event in Virginia, Obama noted that the private sector has added 3.7 million new jobs over the past 23 months. He also acknowledged that there are still “far too many Americans” who are unemployed or need a better-paying job.

“But the economy is growing stronger, the recovery is speeding up, and we’ve got to do everything in our power to keep it going,” he added.

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