US jobs report: economists react to January’s strong report


"All I can say is wow. You've seen optimism start to creep into the market despite the pessimism that's present in everyone's mind."

That statement by Bahl & Gahnor money manager Matt McCormick, reported by Reuters, neatly summarizes the reaction on Wall Street to today's stellar US jobs report

Washington, meanwhile, is playing politics with the jobs report. 

First, the news:

The US economy, the world's largest, added 243,000 jobs last month, crushing economist expectations of 140,000 new jobs.

The US unemployment rate, meanwhile, fell to 8.3 percent from 8.5 percent. It's now at the lowest level in three years. 

Reaction has been swift, from Washington to Wall Street.

After all, the US jobs report is the most important indicator of health in the world's largest economy. It has particular resonance in this election year. 

Here's what the White House said in a statement:

"Today’s unemployment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression," Alan D. Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers said. “It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007.”

Surprise, surprise: Republican lawmakers in Washington were less-than-impressed.

House Speaker John Boehner complained that the rate "is still too high," according to Politico

“If the president really wants to get the economy moving again, really wants to improve his own chances for reelection, maybe he’ll pick up the phone and call Sen. [Harry] Reid and ask Senate Democrats to get off their rear ends,” Boehner said according to Politico, in reference to several bills that the House passed but that are now languishing in the Senate. 

Wall Street, of course, is also paying close attention to the jobs report.

Here's a round-up of the latest economist chatter, as compiled by Reuters:

"That was a surprise. We were way overdue for something like this," William Larkin of Cabot Money Management said. "Employment operates with a lag and I think what we are seeing is all of this positive economic trend has been slowly grinding into positive territory and this is the employment part of it following behind," he added.

"It's a strong number, a very strong number, I would say," Vassili Serebriakov, a currency strategist at Wells Fargo Bank told Reuters. "It's consistent with the broad improvement in the US economic data, but I think the extent of strength in today's report is somewhat of a surprise, and this is a good sign for the US employment market and the US economy.

But there's still plenty of weakness out there, points out Lindsey Piegza, an economist at FTN Financial:

"It was a better-than-expected report, the strongest report that we've seen in quite some time," she told Reuters. "The big question is — here's the thing: the reason we're seeing the unemployment rate drop is because more and more people are dropping out of the labor force. I know the market wants to rally on this number but remember we need a minimum of 250,000 just to cover demographic change. So we're almost at the place where we need to be to reabsorb the nine million people who lost their jobs during the Great Recession. This pushes the bar even higher for payrolls for the rest of this year," Piegza added.

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