When it comes to unemployment, the new year is looking a whole lot like the old one.
The first unemployment report of the 2013 showed the jobless rate lingering just under 8 percent for the fifth straight month, even as the country's employers add jobs. The national unemployment rate in January was 7.9 percent, representing some 12.3 million jobless, according to numbers just released by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics. In September, November, and December, the rate was 7.8 percent; in October it was 7.9 percent.
A year ago, in January 2012, 8.3 percent of the workforce was out of a job.
Some groups experienced rates of unemployment significantly higher than the average last month. Teenagers had an unemployment rate of 23.4 percent; 13.8 percent of blacks and 9.7 percent of Hispanics were jobless. And those who were out of work last month were highly likely to have been jobless for quite some time: 38.1 percent of the unemployed in January had been out of work for at least 27 weeks. Another 15 percent had been unemployed for between 15 and 27 weeks.
Nearly 8 million people were employed last month, but only working part-time jobs because they were unable to find full-time work or because business was slack for their employers.
In fact, the December unemployment rate increases to 14.4 percent if these part -time workers, as well as those who have stopped looking for a job because they have become discouraged, are included in the tally.
At the same time, however, employers continue to create new jobs.
The country added an estimated 157,000 jobs last month, with particular gains in retail, construction and health care, according to BLS data. On the other hand, employment in government jobs and transportation and warehousing fell off as compared to December.
Employment numbers are always provisional when first reported, however, and are almost certain to be revised in next month's report.
The number of jobs added in the last two months of 2012 was revised upward this month, for example. The total employment count for December increased from 155,000 to 196,000; November's count went from 161,000 to 247,000.
Throughout 2012, an average of 181,000 jobs were added each month.