The economy added 243,000 jobs in January, the Labor Department said this morning. It was the 4th-best best monthly job growth in almost six years. More important, it looks like part of a trend. There were a couple good job months in 2010, but they were surrounded before and afterward by months with job losses. Now the economy has clocked 16 consecutive months of job growth. The numbers are finally well into six figures.
Unemployment fell another two-tenths of a percentage point last month to 8.3 percent. That's the lowest level since February 2009, when the aftershocks from the financial crisis were spreading.
The overhang of unsold houses will hurt the economy for years, but even the construction industry is adding a few jobs these days, accounting for 21,000 of the new jobs in January and 31,000 of the new jobs in December. (All these figures are adjusted seasonally. However the warm winter probably accounts for some of the construction gains; good building weather meant more roofers etc. were working in January 2012 than January 2011, all other things being equal.)
Manufacturing is doing quite well. One sector that didn't add jobs is government, which is still adjusting to tight budgets and probably will for some time. 8.3 percent unemployment is still terrible. There are almost 13 million unemployed. There are 5 million long-term unemployed. But if the unemployment rate descends to the low-7-percent range by November, it will substantially improve the Democrats' chances to hold on to the White House.