Friday, February 5, 2010

Quick Notes for the Day - February 5

Unemployment Rate Drops to 9.7%, Labor Market Sees Improvements - The Labor Department reported that the unemployment rate fell to 9.7% in January versus 10% in December. This is the lowest unemployment rate since August. Additionally, nonfarm payrolls fell by 20,000 in January. Under the revisions released today, job losses since the start of the recession in December 2007 totaled 8.4 million.

There were numerous "bright" spots though in the data that were pointing to improvements in the overall labor market. In particular, the services sector added 40,000 jobs after shedding 96,000 positions in December. The data did include a rise in federal government employment partly as a result of the hiring for the 2010 Census.

Also, temporary help employment rose 52,000 last month, while manufacturing payrolls increased 11,000, the first gain since January 2007. Manufacturing employment had dropped 23,000 in December. Temporary employment generally improves prior to full-time positions being added.

Another positive improvement was that the average workweek unexpectedly rose to 33.3 hours which is the highest level in a year from 33.2 hours in December. Total average hourly earnings increased to $18.89 from $18.84 in December. Also, manufacturing overtime rose to 3.5 hours which is the highest since September 2008.

Oil Trades Below $70 - Crude oil briefly fell under $70 a barrel as the dollar hit an 8-month high against the euro, amid continued jitters over the debt woes of several European countries. Crude oil for March delivery was last down $2.58, or 3.7%, at $70.50 a barrel. It briefly plunged more than 4.5% to $69.50 a barrel.

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