The nation’s unemployment rate fell by 0.4 of a percent to 9 percent last month while total nonfarm payroll grew by a meager 36,000, compared with December’s growth of 103,000, according to numbers released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
This is the second straight month that unemployment that the rate has fallen by 0.4 percent and only the sixth time in the last 40 years that the monthly unemployment rate fell by that amount.
The total number of unemployed fell to 13.9 million last month from 14.5 million in December and 14.8 million in January a year ago.
As I wrote previously, a rate drop of that magnitude is a positive sign for future job growth, according to some economists, despite the lackluster current payroll growth. The unemployment rate is estimated from a survey of households, while the payroll number is estimated from a separate survey of employers.
Payroll employment rose in manufacturing and in retail trade but was down in construction and in transportation and warehousing. Most other major industry sectors changed little.
The labor force participation rate was little changed in January at 64.2 percent, while involuntary part-time workers fell from 8.9 million in December to 8.4 million.
Minnesota is scheduled to release its January jobs report March 1.