The unemployment rate fell to 6.6% in January, the lowest rate since October 2008, the Department of Labor reported on Friday.
However, a separate report on the number of new jobs showed the job growth rate has slowed considerably. Most media outlets reported the news surrounding the two reports is not a good sign.
The economy added 113,000 jobs. As reported on Slate, that number “isn’t horrible, but it’s not very good either.” While the even-lower 74,000 jobs added in December was revised upward by about 1,000 jobs, most seemed to view the report as a sign economic growth is slowing.
The Wall Street Journal headline seemed to capture the general feeling of unease: “U.S. Adds 113,000 Jobs, in Latest Worrying Sign on Growth.” The Journal reported the January growth is far below the growth seen between August and November of 2013, when the average monthly gain was about 200,000.
The unemployment rate is of great interest to college students or those considering a return to school to complete a business degree or obtain a master’s degree. Even in down times, having a college degree can often lead to better job opportunities.
The unemployment rate and the job gains data come from separate reports that are collected differently. The unemployment rate is determined through a household survey. The job gains report is done through a payroll survey. The first is showing strong job growth and a falling unemployment number, while the latter is showing slower job growth.
Give the disparity of the numbers, Slate noted, “It’s not 100 percent clear what’s happening.”
Some – such as the Slate writer – argue that things have started going south since the Federal Reserve began tapering off the amount of bonds it buys each month to stabilize the economy and keep interest rates low.
The Associated Press reported that the hiring numbers were “surprisingly weak” in January, which renewed concerned that “the U.S. economy might be slowing after a strong finish last year.” The numbers come on the heels of other indicators of economic weakness across the U.S. and in Europe.
“All the turmoil has renewed doubts about the Federal Reserve’s next steps,” the Associated Press reported.
Among the troubling numbers were a 3% drop in car sales and a report from the National Association of Realtors showing that the number of contracts to buy new homes had fallen sharply.