Economy Watch: Hiring More Anemic in January

While the overall unemployment rate decreased in January 2016, job gains for the month were less than impressive.

The U.S. economy created a net of 151,000 new jobs in January, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, representing a drop in the pace of hiring compared with most of 2015. Over the past three months, job gains have averaged 231,000 per month, with November’s gain adjusted upward from 252,000 to 280,000, and the change in December revised downward from 292,000 to 262,000, for combined gains during those two months that were 2,000 fewer than previously reported.

The kind of hiring that most affects the office market, professional and business services, didn’t move much in January, increasing by 9,000, compared with an increase of 60,000 in December. Within that industry sector, professional and technical services added 25,000 jobs for the month, in line with average monthly gains over the prior 12 months, but employment in temporary help services edged down in January by 25,000, after edging up by the same amount in December.

Healthcare continued to add jobs in January (up 37,000), with most of the increase occurring in hospitals (24,000). Healthcare has added 470,000 jobs over the past 12 months, with about two-fifths of the growth occurring in hospitals, which has an indirect impact on the demand for medical office space.

Retailers added added 58,000 jobs in January, following essentially no change (seasonally adjusted) in December, reflecting relatively strong demand for that kind of space as the year began. Employment in food services and drinking places rose in January by 47,000. Over the last 12 months, that industry has added 384,000 jobs.

The national unemployment rate came in at 4.9 percent in January 2016, down from 5 percent in December, and 5.7 percent a year earlier. The broader measurement of unemployment, which the BLS calls U-6 and which includes those marginally attached to the labor force and those working part time who want to be full time, was unchanged for the month at 9.9 percent. In January 2015, the U-6 was 11.3 percent.