Another month, another underwhelming jobs report that's somehow accompanied by another major dip in the headline unemployment rate. Just 36,000 jobs were created in the US in January, while overall unemployment fell to 9 percent.
At least this time around we have a reason: bad weather was blamed for the sluggish rate of job creation, with some economists predicting a rapid bounce back in February (assuming, we suppose, that the country starts to thaw a little). The weather is likely also responsible for the surge in discouraged workers over the course of the month (the factor that caused the headline rate, down from 9.4 percent in December). After all, if your job is weather-dependent, why would you waste your time looking at a time when the weather is being anything but cooperative.
All told, this month's report seems like another piece of evidence to suggest that the job market is starting to hold its own: while the overall number of jobs created is undoubtedly disappointing, more manufacturing positions were created in January than in any month since August 1998. That suggests companies are starting to see demand pick up, which should in turn lead to further hiring in other sectors down the line.
That cautious sense of optimism is reflected in the latest figures from Vault's Job Seeker Sentiment Index—a bi-monthly poll of Vault's readers feelings about the job market:
In January, just 12 percent of respondents indicated that they felt the market was getting worse—an all-time low for the index, which began in November 2009. Conversely, fully 52 percent of respondents indicated that they think the situation is improving. Of those, 12 percent believe that the situation has improved "significantly" in the past three months—the highest level in a year.
Interestingly, this month's index marks the first time since the summer of 2010 that more respondents have suggested that the job market is improving slightly than simply treading water. Let's hope that that trend continues in coming months—and that the jobs arrive to back up those feelings.
--Phil Stott, Vault.com