Unemployment Falls As U.S. Adds 243,000 Jobs

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The U.S. labor market continued to add new jobs in January, pushing the unemployment rate to the lowest level in nearly three years, in a sign that the economy is recovering from the worst recession in decades. The Bureau of Labor Statistics said January’s unemployment rate fell to 8.3% from 8.5% in December as the economy added 243,000 jobs, a much better result than the 125,000 to 150,000 jobs that many analysts had been expecting.

The overall trend trend in the report pointed to strengthening momentum in the U.S. economy. The number of unemployed persons fell to 12.8 million, the lowest number since February 2009, which was President Obama’s first full month in office. Professional and business services added 70,000 job, while the manufacturing sector increased by 50,000. The construction sector, meanwhile, added 21,000 new jobs.

“This is the strongest jobs report seen through the entire recovery,” Justin Wolfers, an economist at the University of Pennsylvania, wrote in a Twitter message. “It’s rare that all indicators point so strongly in the same direction.”

A broader measure of unemployment, the so-called U-6 figure, which includes those with part-time jobs, fell to 15.1%, down one-tenth of a point. Even the Labor Dept.’s revisions for previous months contained good news. November’s job growth was revised from 100,000 to 157,000, while December’s figure increased from 200,000 to 203,000.

The better-than-expected results came even as the number of government jobs declined by 14,000. The strong data is sure to be welcomed by the White House, which hopes that a strengthening economy boosts President Obama’s re-election hopes.

Despite the good news, the economy has a long way to go before it reaches a full recovery. Some 12.8 million people are still out of work, and the unemployment rate of 8.3% is nearly twice what’s considered healthy. But the data suggests the labor picture continues to move in the right direction.

The positive jobs data propelled stock futures higher before the opening bell of trading Friday.