Today’s jobs report shows solid, steady growth in jobs. The economy added 157,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in January, while the unemployment rate was unchanged at 7.9 percent.
January’s report marks 35 consecutive months of private sector job growth totaling more than 6.1 million jobs. It also shows that the economy gained 2.25 million private sector jobs in 2012, which includes an annual revision to the survey that resulted in an additional 424,000 jobs.
Our recovery from the Great Recession continues at a steady pace as we build on previous gains in job creation. The recent strengthening of the housing market, in particular, is driving welcome growth in construction employment, with 98,000 jobs added over the past four months and 296,000 jobs over the past two years. Retail jobs, health care jobs, and professional and business services jobs also contributed to the positive numbers in today’s report.
Over the last three months, we’ve added an average of 208,000 private sector jobs, and that is a real testament to the resilience of our economy. But there is more work to do. The bipartisan American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 enacted this month met President Obama’s goal of keeping taxes low for middle-class families – a critical part of assuring that our economy will stay on its path toward greater growth. Congress should resolve remaining tax and spending issues to provide hard-working middle-class families and small businesses a measure of certainty about the future. As Congress considers how it should address long-term deficit challenges, it is essential that it take a balanced approach that preserves programs providing important safeguards for working families struggling to make ends meet in an improving labor market.
Seth Harris is the acting U.S. secretary of labor.