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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 02/ 4/2011

January jobs report to offer important read on economy

By Neil Irwin

There has been plenty of economic data lately pointing to better times ahead. Just this week, a key survey of manufacturers showed the strongest pace of expansion since 2004, and the number of people filing claims for jobless benefits fell sharply.

But Friday morning's report on the employment situation is the acid test of whether those optimistic signs are translating into real job creation and progress at reducing unemployment. The Labor Department will report job growth and unemployment data at 8:30 a.m.

It is the most important monthly report on the economic calendar, the ultimate barometer of progress--or lack thereof--toward a healthier economy for the nation's 15 million unemployed.

Economists are forecasting a gain of 145,000 jobs in January, which would be slightly more than the 130,000 or so needed to keep up with population growth. They expect the unemployment rate to edge up to 9.5 percent, as more people who had given up looking for work return to the labor market. Forecasters are also expecting for average hourly earnings to edge up 0.2 percent and for the length of the average workweek to be unchanged at 34.3 hours.

Sharply higher job growth would be a welcome surprise. The nation added 103,000 jobs in December, fewer than are needed to keep up with population growth. The good news in the December report was that the unemployment rate fell to 9.4 percent, from 9.8 percent--but even that news was not as good as it seems, as about half of the improvement came from people dropping out of the labor force, rather from than people getting jobs.

One thing to watch for: The impact of weather. Snowstorms across large parts of the nation in mid-January could distort the numbers, though just how much is hard to predict. When cities and businesses shut down because of snow, they tend not to add people to their payrolls. The Bureau of Labor Statistics will likely explain in its news release announcing the data whether it thinks weather disruption had a substantial effect on the numbers.

"The fundamentals have been strong, with accelerating GDP growth, signs of a pickup in job openings, and a declining trend of layoffs in recent months," said Andrew Tilton, a Goldman Sachs economist, in a report Thursday. "But very cold and snowy winter weather--including a 'major' snowstorm in the January payroll survey week--likely kept some people from getting to work, suppressing the payroll count."

By Neil Irwin  | February 4, 2011; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  U.S. Economy, U.S. Labor Department  
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"They expect the unemployment rate to edge up to 9.5 percent, as more people who had given up looking for work return to the labor market. " - the left-wing pro-Obama POST

....9.5% unemployment is unacceptable at this point and after spending $1 trillion dollars that we had to borrow from China...

In 2012 lets stop farting around and hire/elect the most qualified candidate for prez....

Obama can't win the General Election if Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee.....

Romney / Rubio 2012......."Believe In America"

Posted by: Anonymous | February 4, 2011 7:50 AM | Report abuse

Why can't Wash Post admit Obama's economic policies can't decrease unemployment because he has no experience working in the private sector or in-depth knowledge of economics which explains why he continues to rely on bernanke's fantasy economics. Blaming our depressed economy for the last 2 years on this month's snowstorms is silly. WashPost throws in this relatively insignificant detail to hide obama's incompetence

Posted by: Anonymous | February 4, 2011 8:06 AM | Report abuse

Blaming Obama for the economy is not right. Just look back 2 years ago - he inherited an economy on the brink of collapse with banks, auto, and others going out of business. That 1 trillion dollars headed off an economic collapse. You need to start thinking with your heads instead of your butt.

Posted by: Anonymous | February 4, 2011 8:37 AM | Report abuse

In only two months since being elected, REPUBLICANS LOWERED UNEMPLOYMENT from 9.8% to 9.0% !!!

I am very proud of REPUBLICANS and THE TEA PARTY !!!

Posted by: Anonymous | February 4, 2011 8:39 AM | Report abuse

Whatever the report it will be deliberate fiction as are all government and Wall Street economic reports . Not being counted are the unemployed who have lost eligibility for unemployment, they and others will not be factored or counted just as the continuing huge rise in food and energy costs are not factored into inflation figures. Then there is the self employed such as construction contractors and other business owners who either have no jobs or thier businesses are failing... such as a restaurant owner and friend who used to take in $65,000 a month and is now taking in less then $7,000 a month with a overhead of $42,000 a month, he has mortgaged his home to the max, and borrowed to the hilt in order to save his family's 56 year old land mark restaurant. He now has no medical insurance on his family and what is left of his employees and staff...from 14 full time employees to 3 part timers, his daughter had to quit college and is now waiting and busing tables. Food and drink costs have tripled and are expected to go up even further.
Yesterday after offering to sell me half the buisness he said "what in the hell do I do now at age 57 with a sick wife and am about to lose my home and my business?"

Posted by: 123Njord | February 4, 2011 8:44 AM | Report abuse

There may not be a bigger joke running than the monthly unemployment figure released by the United States Labor Department. Look no further than the January, 2011 number announced today to reinforce this notion.

Posted by: philtortora | February 4, 2011 9:56 AM | Report abuse

It is 9.58am friday.Acoording to your article jobs report was to be out at 8.30am.Where is the report?Thank you

Posted by: Anonymous | February 4, 2011 9:59 AM | Report abuse

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