The private sector continued to drive growth with an increase of 257,000 jobs in January, the 23rd consecutive gain and strongest performance in nine months. In contrast, the public sector remained a modest drag on the economy, shedding 14,000 jobs in January.
Within the private sector, the restaurant industry continued to be one of the steadiest job creators. Eating and drinking places added 32,800 jobs in January, their 12th consecutive monthly gain for a total of more than 303,000 jobs. In addition, as a result of annual BLS data revisions, it was revealed that the restaurant industry gained back all of the jobs lost in the recession as of November 2011, with the industry currently providing 105,000 more jobs than it did at the pre-recession peak.
Along with the improving job growth in recent months was a steady decline in the unemployment rate. The nation’s jobless rate stood at 8.3 percent in January, the fifth consecutive monthly decline and lowest level since February 2009. While a temporary uptick in the unemployment rate is still likely as discouraged workers reenter the labor force, the recent trend is certainly positive, particularly with regard to the psychological boost that it provides to consumers.