4 Feb 2012

US job numbers boosted in January

12:30 pm on 4 February 2012

The United States economy created 243,000 jobs in January - the highest total for nine months, according to official figures.

The rise was much more than expected. Analysts had forecast an increase of about 150,000 jobs, the BBC reports.

The unemployment rate dropped to 8.3%, which was the lowest rate in nearly three years, and down from a revised rate of 8.5% in December.

The number with jobs has increased by more than 3 million from the low point during the recent recession.

Following the release of the job stats on Friday, the Dow Jones industrial average surged to its highest close since before the 2008 financial crisis.

The Dow jumped 157 points to its highest mark since May 2008.

The January figures suggest an improving labour market, although it remains the case the recovery from the recession has been relatively weak - typical of downturns caused by a major financial crisis, the BBC reports.

The economy will be a central issue in the presidential elections in November and an improved job situation may help President Barack Obama.

Growth widespread

The data from the Labor Department showed job growth had been widespread, with large gains in business services, leisure and hospitality, and manufacturing.

Leisure and hospitality, which includes restaurants and hotels, added 44,000 jobs.

Retailers added nearly 11,000 jobs, and professional and business services, which includes higher paying jobs in accounting, architecture and engineering, gained 70,000 - the most in 10 months.

Factories added 50,000 workers, much more than expected and a one-year high.

Retailers added 10,500 workers and construction employment rose by 21,000. Analysts believe the figure was helped by a mild winter, which boosted employment in those sectors.

However, a report on Wednesday by the US Congressional Budget Office, a federal agency, forecast that unemployment would climb to nearly 9% in the last three months of this year and peak at 9.2% early in 2013.