BLS Jobs Report: Unemployment Lowest Since the 1969 Moon Landing

February 4, 2023 by Lightcast Press Office

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Feb. 3, 2023 – The Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation Report shows the labor market is still historically tight, with the economy creating a stunning 517,000 jobs in January and unemployment dropping to 3.4%, a level not seen since 1969. Our economists broke down the jobs report this morning on LinkedIn Live

“This report is surprisingly positive, but a bit hard to digest. It has a lot of mixed signals. Are we actually landing or just taking off again and going in the wrong direction?” said Lightcast senior economist Rucha Vankudre.

Key Takeaways:

1. The unemployment rate saw a record low of 3.4 in January, down from 3.5 in December. This is the lowest non-wartime unemployment rate in history and the lowest overall since 1969. 

“I think economists across the country are shocked right now,” said Lightcast senior economist Rucha Vankudre.”The labor market, even though we thought it was impossible, is somehow getting tighter. The real question everyone has is, how can this keep happening while we continue to see prices go down?”

2.  While there have been concerns about layoffs, and surveys show that CEOs and economists expect a recession, that’s not what this strong job market suggests. The report did not show signs of bellwether changes of a slowing economy, such as employers letting go of temp workers or cutting back on hours.

“It's hard to say the economy’s deteriorating when you see 500,000 plus job gains. The strength of the labor market is surpassing everyone's expectations.Things are looking good, if not a bit crazy,” Lightcast senior economist Elizabeth Crofoot. 

3. The Federal Reserve has been trying to engineer a “soft landing” where inflation moderates but without major job losses. This report isn’t likely to cause the Fed to shift course.

 “I think the Fed is laser focused on wages and Inflation, and they are seeing a tick down in average hourly earnings and overall wage gains. That's a positive sign, so I think they're going to want to continue to keep an eye on the data and they're going to hold steady until they see that inflation rate come down,” said Lightcast senior economist Elizabeth Crofoot.


Unemployment over time
Change in nonfarm payrolls
Total monthly change in employment by industry


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