With job growth accelerating and wages rising, almost every indicator is turning positive.
Folks, this is the report we've all been waiting for.
Blowing away expectations, the economy added 243,000 workers, and the unemployment rate ticked down to 8.3 percent, the lowest since February 2009, Obama's second month in office.
The longer you read, the better the news gets. Hourly pay increased. Manufacturing added 50,000 workers, its second-biggest monthly gain since the 1990s. The employment-to-population rate rose. For people who never attended college, unemployment tracked down to 13.1% from 13.8%.
Most importantly, job creation is accelerating. We added 157,000 jobs in November, 203,000 in December, and now 243,000 in January, according to the payroll survey. Even with the awful summer of 2011, the economy added 1.95 million jobs in the last 12 months, the best figure in five years. The household survey, which gives us the unemployment rate but normally isn't quoted for jobs-added figures, was even more positive. It put employment growth at a whopping 631,000 for January. The household survey has been more optimistic than the payroll figures for months now, so it's hard to know how seriously to take that number. Suffice it to say: It's more good news.
Every indicator is pointing in a positive direction, except for two. First, total government employment is still in decline (although, depending on what you think about the government, you might not consider this bad news). Second, long-term unemployment is still an extremely sticky problem. (Who are the long-term unemployed? See here.) The share of the jobless who have been out of work more than six months is stuck at 43 percent, roughly the same share as it was two years ago. There are still 5.5 million people who have been out of work for more than six months. As the recovery accelerates, long-term unemployment's share of the total could rise if these people are truly frozen out of the labor force and while the short-term unemployed find work.
I like to end each jobs report with a harsh reminder, courtesy of the Hamilton Project, of how deep the jobs hole really is. The U.S. economy is still nearly 6 million jobs short of its January 2008 peak. This graph shows how long it would take to make back the jobs we lost in the Great Recession at various rates. If we create 200,000 jobs a month, as we have averaged over the last three months, we'll fill the jobs gap by the early 2020s.