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Before you panic, though, consider at least one expert opinion:
"It looks to me like a pause," says Robert Shapiro, chairman of the Sonecon economic advisory firm and a former top official at the Commerce Department, in an interview with The Washington Post. "We need two, three, four months of weak numbers before we say there's any real problem with the recovery."
In addition, although the unemployment changed little (6.6 percent, down from 6.7) the number of long-term jobless fell by 200,000. For once, it appears, that the drop in unemployment can't be accounted for by people opting out of the workforce: the labor force participation rate rose this month to 63 percent.
Whatever the cause of the smaller additions to payrolls, it probably isn't the weather, as many economists suggested as an explanation for December's low numbers. Construction rose by 48,000 jobs last month; the previous month, the sector declined by 22,000 jobs.
Other big gainers: heavy and civil engineering (+10,000 jobs), wholesale trade (+14,000 jobs), manufacturing (+21,000 jobs), professional and business services (+36,000 jobs), leisure and hospitality (+24,000 jobs). Health care remained largely flat, after gaining an average of 13,000 jobs a month in 2013, and the sectors that lost the most jobs were within retail trade (-22,000 jobs for sporting goods, hobby, book, and music stores) and federal jobs (-12,000, with the postal service accounting for -9,000).
Earnings are on the rise. The Labor Department reports:
"Average hourly earnings for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by 5 cents to $24.21. Over the year, average hourly earnings have risen by 46 cents, or 1.9 percent. In January, average hourly earnings of private-sector production and nonsupervisory employees increased by 6 cents to $20.39."
The PayScale Index forecasts a 0.7 percent growth in wages for the first quarter of 2014, after a 0.2 percent increase for the last quarter of 2013.
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