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Unemployment drops to 8.3% in January

Adriene Hill Feb 3, 2012

Adriene Hill: The national unemployment rate has dropped to 8.3 percent, 243,000 jobs were added — it’s big, far exceeding most analysts expectations.

For more we go live now to economist David Wyss, he’s a visiting fellow at Brown University. Good morning.

David Wyss: Good morning.

Hill: So what strikes you about these numbers?

Wyss: Obviously, they’re very strong. It’s hard to find much sign of weakness in here. Basically everybody’s hiring except the government. And although the population change in January caused by the revision in Census estimates does distort some of the household numbers, even you take that out, it looks awfully strong.

Hill: Now, is there anything in these numbers that does concern you or that raises a little flag?

Wyss: Um, frankly no.

Hill: Wow.

Wyss: The only interesting thing is, a lot of the population change on the re-estimate was concentrated among women and particularly non-white women, which is sort of odd. Apparently we’ve been under counting them. If anything, that gives you a little bit of a boost in the unemployment rate, or should have. The other point: the biggest drop here in the unemployment rate was among non-whites, who had been lagging, so maybe they’re catching up.

Hill: Now does this mean 2012 is going to be the year we see a strong recovery?

Wyss: “Strong recovery” is probably an exaggeration but “stronger” — probably true. We are seeing a little more strength in the economy. People are feeling confident enough to spend, they’re feeling confident enough to go out there and do something instead of just huddled around the television set.

Hill: Now is there something you expect to see more growth in going forward?

Wyss: Oh certainly. Number one, health care continues be a dominant sector. We’re getting older. As you get older, you get sicker and unfortunately, that’s probably going to continue to be a strong sector. Construction, we had a 21,000 gain here, we’re starting to see a stabilization in that sector — distorted somewhat by the mild winter weather, but still, that’s a very encouraging sign as well.

Hill: David Weiss is a visting fellow at Brown University. Thanks.

Wyss: Thank you.

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