Economy Watch: January Employment Numbers Could Come in Low

With the first employment reports of 2016 coming out, there's some worry the results won't be as strong as in recent months.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

The first employment report of 2016 from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) is due on Friday, and there’s a measure of worry that it will be weaker than in recent months. That seems to be the wider trend for the U.S. economy, as it’s buffeted by global economic woes. A sagging job market will, at the very least, postpone another interest rate hike for a while.

The privately generated ADP employment report, which was released Wednesday, showed an increase of 205,000 private-sector payroll jobs in January—that’s more than expected. However, the report often doesn’t predict BLS numbers with accuracy for any given month, though it tends to follow overall employment trends over longer periods.

Another recent employment datum: The ISM manufacturing employment index decreased in January to 45.9 percent. That suggests private-sector manufacturing jobs decreased about 40,000 in December, probably as a result of slowing demand for exports. Also, the ISM non-manufacturing employment index decreased in December to 52.1 percent, suggesting private-sector, non-manufacturing jobs increased about 130,000 in January.

Separately, the BLS reported on Wednesday that unemployment rates were lower in December than a year earlier in 296 of the nation’s 387 metropolitan areas, higher in 79 areas, and unchanged in 12 areas. Twenty-five areas had jobless rates of less than 3 percent, while 12 areas had rates of at least 10 percent.

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