Hicks: Jobs Report Sends 'Mixed Message'

Posted: Updated:

A Ball State University economist says the raw jobs numbers in the January employment report are encouraging, but there is "continued weakness" in American labor markets. Mike Hicks says about 20 percent of the 257,000 jobs added last month were part-time positions.

February 6, 2015

News Release

Muncie, Ind. -- The U.S. economy added 257,000 new jobs last month and the numbers for November and December were revised upward, but the U.S. Labor Department's employment report released today offers mixed messages, says Ball State's Michael Hicks, director of the university's Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER).

January was the 11th straight month of job gains above 200,000, the longest streak since 1994.

"Most of the jobs that were created were in retail, which should not be a big job creator in January," Hicks says. "The quality of job offerings is not robust, and more than 50,000 workers, or 1 in 5 new jobs, were part-time positions. Moreover, households reporting a worker holding more than one job increased by more than 200,000 in January. So, it is fair to say that all the net job creation in January comprised part-time jobs and second jobs for existing workers.

"These raw jobs numbers are encouraging, but mask continued weakness in America's labor markets," he said.

Hicks also pointed out that wages increased 12 cents last month after falling 5 cents in December.

"Unambiguously good news came in the form of revisions to past months, which saw overall employment rise by 143,000 and growth in the labor force by 700,000," he said. "It is this growth that caused the unemployment rate to rise to 5.7 percent as more people are looking for employment. This reinforces how little value the unemployment rate has in telling us how the current economy is performing."

Source: Ball State University