The official unemployment rate has gone up to 7.8%, the government reported this morning. Wait, scratch that, the rate has remained flat because the number reported last month was revised upward. They say 155,000 jobs were created, but something like 30,000 of those jobs were related to Hurricane Sandy reconstruction. The labor participation rate is still stuck at under 64%.
Employers kept their pace of hiring virtually steady in December, falling short of the levels needed to bring down the country’s lofty unemployment rate and pointing to lackluster economic growth in 2013.
Other data on Friday gave stronger signs of growth, with the U.S. service sector activity expanding the most in 10 months.
Payrolls outside the farming sector grew 155,000 last month, the Labor Department said. That was in line with analysts’ expectations and slightly below the revised gain of 161,000 reported for November.
The jobless rate was steady at 7.8 percent. The report reinforces expectations of 2 percent economic growth this year, which is unlikely to quickly bring down the unemployment rate.
It is also unlikely to make the U.S. Federal Reserve rethink its easy-money policies anytime soon despite growing unease by some policymakers over a bond-buying program.
In a nutshell, this economy really stinks. Still. For four years. Someone this morning called it the “new normal.” But it’s not so new, and it’s not so normal.