Job Report Offers Brighter Picture of Employment

(Reuters) – U.S.
private employers added more jobs than expected in January, the 12th
consecutive month that companies took on staff, adding to hopes that the
weak American labor market is slowly improving.

The private sector added
187,000 jobs in January, compared with a downwardly revised 247,000 jobs
in December, a report by payrolls processor ADP Employer Services
showed on Wednesday.

The ADP
figures come ahead of the government’s more comprehensive January labor
market report on Friday, which includes both public and private sector
employment.

But ADP figures for
December — both initial and revised — turned out to be much stronger
than the government report showed, adding to doubts about the
reliability of ADP as a predictor of payrolls.

Markets showed little reaction to the data, and some analysts said investors could be wary of ADP after December’s numbers.

"People
are discounting it because of (December’s) shocker and a couple of days
later, it proved to be wrong," said John Canally, investment strategist
at LPL Financial in Boston.

Still,
he said, "it’s 12 months in a row that ADP showed job gains. That’s the
longest stretch since 2006 to 2007. Companies are cut to the bone. You
are not going to see any more layoffs."

The January ADP figure was above economists’ expectations for gains of 145,000 in a Reuters poll.

Even
though most indicators lately have suggested the U.S. economy is
picking up steam, job creation has been slow since the end of the
recession in June 2009.

Analysts have closely watched data on private payrolls, which tend to show the bulk of new job gains.

In the markets, investors were more focused on the civil unrest in Egypt.
U.S. stocks opened slightly lower, pulling back after Tuesday’s strong
advance and Egypt President Hosni Mubarak’s announcement of his decision
to step down at the end of his term. But they later climbed back into
positive territory.

U.S. Treasury debt prices were up slightly, while the euro was down against the dollar..

Friday’s
Labor Department report is expected to show a rise in overall nonfarm
payrolls of 145,000 in January, based on a Reuters poll of analysts, and
a rise in private payrolls of 155,000.

Analysts have said severe snow storms that hit the country during the survey period could result in a much lower figure.

Macroeconomic
Advisers LLC Chairman Joel Prakken said the ADP data was not
significantly affected by the weather and he did not see an impact on
Friday’s payrolls data either.

Macroeconomic Advisers develops the report with ADP.

"When
I look at these two months together (December and January) … I see a
clear pattern of strengthening and acceleration here, that I think is
very encouraging," Prakken told reporters.

A
separate report on Wednesday showed the number of planned layoffs at
U.S. firms in January rose 20 percent from December, to 38,519, but the
tally was still the lowest for a January since at least 1993.

Noting
that January was typically a month of large job cuts, global
outplacement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas said the slowdown
in job cuts that began in the latter half of 2010 appeared to be
continuing.

But in a sign that
employers are reluctant to increase full-time hiring, Manpower Inc,
which provides temporary services, posted results that beat estimates,
saying demand was "exceptional" in Europe and had increased for
technology workers.

(Additional reporting by Richard Leong and Kristina Cooke in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)

 

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