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Jobs: The Report, the Spin, and the Fear

1:03 PM, Feb 7, 2014 • By GEOFFREY NORMAN
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The monthly employment numbers are out and even the New York Times is dismayed.  The economy added 113,000 jobs in January, which was (all together now) unexpectedly short of the 180,000 economists were predicting.  This news:

... is likely to spur fears that the labor market is poised for yet another slowdown. 

The White House, where they have learned to always look on the bright side, responded in upbeat fashion, calling the report:

… another reminder of both the progress that has been made and the challenges that remain. Businesses have now added 8.5 million jobs over the last 47 months and the unemployment rate ticked down to its lowest level in more than five years. But the economy is still healing from the Great Recession and steps are still needed to expand economic opportunity. 

And, of course, there were some who simply did not believe the numbers and/or blamed the weather. Like Mark Zandi who said:

“I think the weather is all over these numbers. I don’t think anything fundamental has changed.”

Maybe.  But, again, maybe not.  Other numbers and reports were released earlier this week and unexpected or not, they were not cause for optimism.  

For instance:

Consumer confidence fell last week to the lowest level in more than two months as views on the economy, personal finances and buying climate worsened.   Bloomberg

*  U.S. manufacturing activity slowed sharply in January on the back of the biggest drop in new orders in 33 years while construction spending barely rose in December, pointing to some loss of steam in the economy. – Reuters

* U.S. exports fell 1.8% to a seasonally adjusted $191.29 billion in December from a month earlier … Economists at J.P. Morgan Chase and Barclays Capital lowered their fourth-quarter estimates for annualized GDP growth to 2.8% from 3.2%. Capital Economics said the rebound in the monthly trade deficit means fourth-quarter GDP growth will likely be revised down to an annual pace of about 2.9%. –   Wall Street Journal

Meanwhile, much of America still considers the economy to be in recession and if there is more news of this sort, they’ll likely be right.

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