The U.S. economy created a modest 157,000 jobs in January as the sluggish recovery from the recession of 2007 continued to leave millions of Americans job seekers sidelined and without a paycheck.
Despite the net gain in jobs for the month, the unemployment rate edged higher to 7.9 percent, consistent with a recovery that is just ambling along, at best.
The Labor Department's report Friday included a few positive signs, including a stronger pace of hiring at the end of 2012 than initially reported. That may dispel some worries that followed a separate report this week showing economic growth came to an abrupt halt as 2012 drew to a close.
On Wednesday, the government reported that the gross domestic product, the value of all goods and services produced by the nation, came to a standstill. Deep cuts in government spending and a big drawdown in inventories offset underlying strength in business and consumer spending.
“January's employment report should help to soothe any lingering concerns, after the negative GDP (data), that the U.S. economy is headed for a recession,” said Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics.
Fresh data from other sources seemed to confirm that any pause in growth late last year was only temporary.
The U.S. manufacturing sector grew in January at its fastest clip in nine months, boosted by a surge in domestic demand, according to the Institute for Supply Management. Much of the strength is coming from automakers, who reported continued strong sales in January. An aging American fleet of cars and trucks, the result of businesses and households deferring replacement during the economic downturn, is prompting many buyers to visit car showrooms. Newer, fuel-efficient models have also spurred sales.RELATED: Obama's second inaugural is a political speech