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Labor Department reports January job numbers

Construction workers in Philadelphia, Penn. Construction was one of the sectors that saw a boost in jobs in January.

Jeremy Hobson: And the big focus on Wall Street this morning is the January jobs report from the Labor Department.

Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer joins us live from Washington with the details of the report. Nancy, give us the headlines.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer: Hey Jeremy. This is a really good jobs report -- better than a lot of people expected. The unemployment rate has dropped to 8.3 percent; 243,000 jobs were created; 50,000 of them in manufacturing -- which, of course, has been a bright spot for the recovery over the past year.

December and November jobs were revised upward. But one thing we really have to remember, Jeremy: there are still 5.5 million people who are long-term unemployed -- that is, they have been looking for work for 27 weeks or more.

Hobson: Indeed, even with the good news that comes in, we are climbing out of a very deep hole. Marketplace's Nancy Marshall-Genzer in Washington.

And let's get reaction now from our regular Friday guest, Chris Low. He is chief economist with FTN Financial, and he's with us live from New York. Good morning, Chris.

Chris Low: Good morning Jeremy.

Hobson: Well give us your reaction -- what do you make of this report?

Low: Nancy said that it's a really terrific report. What we'd like to see as economists is not just a good headline number, but decent details to back it up. And that's what we got. Widespread job gains: 50,000 in manufacturing, 21,000 in construction. Private payrolls up big too. The only standout job losses here: government trimming 14,000 jobs. But to post a big headline rise like we did, despite that, is terrific.

Hobson: And Chris, I noticed another thing in this report, which is that the unemployment rate did not really change for women, but it did come down for men. What does that tell you?

Low: That's right, and that's because that the two really hard-hit areas in the recession, which were construction and manufacturing, both did quite well this time. Those are male-dominated industries. The male unemployment rate went up a lot more in the recession than the female unemployment rate, so we expected it would come down faster. That's actually been one that's lagging, so it's a good sign.

Hobson: And quickly, Chris -- any chance that this is just a momentary piece of good news; that we'll head right back down again?

Low: Well, it could be. You know, last year, we had a string of reports early in the year and then high gas prices sort of snuffed-out the economy. I think it'll be different this time though, because consumers overseas are likely to buckle under high gas prices before we have to worry about it here in the U.S.

Hobson: Chris Low, chief economist with FTN Financial. Thanks as always.

Low: Thank you.

About the author

Nancy Marshall-Genzer is a senior reporter for Marketplace based in Washington, D.C. covering daily news.

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