Unemployment Drops to 9.7 Percent; Low-Paying, Temporary Jobs Lead Recovery

The big number and good news is that U.S. unemployment fell from 10 percent to 9.7 in January -- that is, the 9.3 million people who had lost their jobs was 378,000 fewer than the month before. This is from the Labor Department's household survey; according to a separate Department survey of business establishments, there are slightly fewer nonfarm payroll jobs -- down by 20,000.

There were some growth industries, chief among them temporary help services -- you know, the call-you-if-we-need-you, no-benefits employers. By month's end there were 52,000 more of these jobs than in December. Right behind that was retail (+42,000), a traditionally crappy-paying sector; health care (ditto), up 15,000; and the Federal Government, which added 33,000 jobs, including 9,000 temp workers for the Census. (State and local government payrolls are down.)

In January 49.9 percent of the workforce was female, as opposed to 48.8 at the start of the recession in December 2007, giving some meager fuel to charges of the feminization of the workforce or, as lunatics like to call it, the mancession.


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