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Jobless Rate Steady; Job Growth Slows

February 05, 1988|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — The nation's jobless rate held steady at a decade-low 5.8% last month as job growth slowed to less than half what it had averaged in late 1987, the government said today.

California's jobless rate was 5.1% in January, down slightly from 5.2% in December, the Labor Department reported.

Nationwide, about 385,000 people said they found work in January. But the number of unemployed also climbed, by 68,000 to just over 7 million, the department said.

Businesses said they added 174,000 people to their payrolls last month--contrasted with a growth averaging more than 350,000 from October through December.

"The number of jobs in the services industry leveled off, factory job gains were less widespread than they have been in the last few months, and employment declined in construction and mining," said Janet L. Norwood, U.S. commissioner of labor statistics, in congressional testimony.

Retail trade accounted for all of the seasonally adjusted net increase.

Government Payrolls Drop

"It may be that, in some areas where recruitment has been difficult, retailers decided to retain more of their Christmas staff after the holidays than they usually do," Norwood told the congressional Joint Economic Committee.

Government payrolls, meanwhile, declined at all levels by 67,000 last month, but were still 271,000 above a year ago.

Manufacturing employment, which had been growing by an average of 70,000 a month recently, slowed to a gain of 25,000.

Export-producing industries, such as machinery and electrical equipment, continued to increase their payrolls. Those two industries added 21,000 jobs.

But steel industry employment fell 2,000 and auto industry jobs declined 8,000. The number of construction jobs fell 50,000.

Norwood said these numbers "seem consistent with recent indicators, such as housing starts, building permits and new house sales, all of which headed down in December."

While the January figures are not as glowing as those of recent months, Norwood said it is too early to declare the job boom over.

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