Who does the jobless recovery hurt the most?

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The stock market got very jittery in advance of this morning’s unemployment report, lining up with many economists’ expectations that the jobless rate would hold steady at 10% or tick upwards. Then it didn’t.

The unemployment rate, which has been hovering around 10% for the past three months, instead ticked down in January, to 9.7%. More meaningfully, broader measures of unemployment also fell. The Bureau of Labor Statistics’s “U-4″ unemployment rate, which takes into account discouraged workers, fell from 10.5% to 10.3%. And the “U-6″ series, which captures people marginally attached to the workforce including those working part-time even though they’d rather be working full-time, dropped from 17.3% to 16.5%. (All those numbers are seasonally adjusted.)

The good news, though, isn’t being spread around evenly.

Consider that the unemployment rate for most major worker groups–including adult men, teenagers, blacks and Hispanics–showed little change. The jobless rate really only fell for whites and women. The latter now accounts for 49.9% of the total non-farm workforce, compared to 48.8% at the beginning of the recession.

Furthermore, the number of people who have been without jobs for 27 weeks or more (the so-called long-term unemployed) continued to trend up in January. A full 6.3 million people now fall into this camp, an increase of 5 million workers since the recession began.

Various industries are also faring quite differently. In January sectors that added jobs included manufacturing (especially motor vehicles and parts), retail, the federal government, and temporary help. Temp jobs represented the largest gain in terms of  the raw number of people finding work. That’s typical for an economy coming out of a recession, although probably not the best case scenario for most job seekers.

The biggest shedder of jobs was the construction industry, with other losses coming from financial services, leisure and hospitality, state and local government, and courier and messenger services (which saw a whopping loss of 23,000 jobs).

Overall, a net 20,000 jobs were lost in January, which sounds a little odd since the unemployment rate dropped. Just keep in mind that this time last year we lost 779,000 jobs in a month. By that measure, we’re really doing fine.

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