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Economic News Release

Commissioner's Statement on the Employment Situation News Release

Advance copies of this statement are made available to the press
under lock-up conditions with the explicit understanding that the
data are embargoed until 8:30 a.m. Eastern Standard Time.
                          Statement of
                           Keith Hall
                   Bureau of Labor Statistics
                           before the
                    Joint Economic Committee
                     UNITED STATES CONGRESS
                    Friday, February 6, 2009

Madam Chair and Members of the Committee:

     Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the employment and
unemployment data we released this morning.
     The labor market continued to weaken dramatically in
January. Total nonfarm payroll employment fell by 598,000, and
the unemployment rate rose from 7.2 to 7.6 percent. January's
sharp drop in employment brings job losses to 3.6 million since
the start of the recession in December 2007 (as determined by the
National Bureau of Economic Research). About half of the decline
occurred in the past 3 months. Job losses in January were large
and widespread across the major industry sectors.
     Manufacturing employment fell by 207,000 over the month,
bringing the job loss in this industry to 1.1 million since the
start of the recession. Nearly half of the loss occurred in the
past 3 months. In January, employment declines were spread
throughout the sector but were especially large in fabricated
metal products (-37,000), motor vehicles and parts (-31,000), and
machinery (-22,000).
     Construction shed 111,000 jobs over the month. The pace of
job loss in this sector has accelerated in recent months.
Employment has declined by 781,000 since the beginning of the
recession, with about 40 percent of the decrease occurring in the
past 3 months.
     In January, job losses continued throughout most of the
service-providing sector. Since the start of the recession, this
sector has lost 1.8 million jobs, with over half of the decline
occurring in the past 3 months. Employment in temporary help
agencies fell by 76,000 in January and has declined by 605,000
since December 2007. Other large over-the-month job losses
occurred in retail trade (-45,000), transportation and
warehousing (-44,000), financial activities (-42,000), wholesale
trade (-31,000), and professional and technical services
     Private education and health care added jobs in January.
Employment in health care was up by 19,000 over the month
compared with an average of 30,000 a month in 2008.
     Average hourly earnings for production and nonsupervisory
workers in the private sector rose by 5 cents, or 0.3 percent, in
January. Over the past 12 months, average hourly earnings have
increased by 3.9 percent. From December 2007 to December 2008,
the seasonally adjusted Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage
Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) fell by 0.7 percent.
     Measures from our household survey also reflected the weak
labor market conditions in January. The unemployment rate rose
from 7.2 to 7.6 percent, bringing the total number of unemployed
persons to 11.6 million. Since December 2007, the rate has risen
by 2.7 percentage points, with the increase widespread across
demographic groups.
     In January, the employment-population ratio dropped to 60.5
percent, 2.2 percentage points lower than at the beginning of the
recession. This is the lowest level since May 1986. The labor
force participation rate, at 65.5 percent in January, has edged
down in recent months.
     This morning, on our Web site, the Bureau of Labor
Statistics began publishing monthly estimates of the employment
status of persons with a disability. In January, the unemployment
rate for these persons was 13.2 percent, compared with a rate of
8.3 percent for persons with no disability (not seasonally
adjusted). The employment-population ratio for persons with a
disability was 20.0 percent, compared with 65.0 percent for those
with no disability. The collection of these important data is
sponsored by the Department of Labor's Office of Disability
Employment Policy.
     Before closing, I would note there were routine annual
adjustments to the data from our two surveys. The establishment
survey data released today reflect the incorporation of annual
benchmark revisions. Each year, we re-anchor our sample-based
survey estimates to full universe counts of employment, primarily
derived from administrative records of the unemployment insurance
tax system. Household survey data for January reflect updated
population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau. Further
information about the impact of these adjustments is contained in
our news release and on our Web site.
     Summarizing labor market developments for January, nonfarm
payroll employment fell by 598,000, and the unemployment rate
rose to 7.6 percent. Since the start of the recession in December
2007, job losses have totaled 3.6 million, with about half of the
decrease occurring in the last 3 months.
     My colleagues and I now would be glad to answer your

Last Modified Date: February 06, 2009