“Decline in the jobless rate was NOT a matter of discouraged workers dropping out”

Happy weekend guys,

1. President Obama’s weekly address, or as I would describe it in a very un-Obama way: START HIRING, YOU SELFISH BIG CATS!

***********************************************************************

2. Recovery!

Reuters: decline in the jobless rate was not a matter of discouraged workers dropping out

///

But the unemployment rate, which is drawn from a survey of households rather than business establishments, dropped to 9.0 percent from 9.4 percent in December, the lowest level since April 2009 and down nearly a full percentage point in the span of two months.

WHAT GIVES?

* January employment reports are typically tricky to interpret because the Labor Department makes adjustments to its population counts, which means comparisons to December are not always apples-to-apples when looking at the data from the department’s household survey. However, the agency said the labor force count did not change this time.

* Smoothed to take into account the change in the population count, the household survey showed the number of people reporting they were employed jumped by 589,000, and the number unemployed fell by 590,000.

* That means the decline in the jobless rate was not a matter of discouraged workers dropping out, something that had been a significant factor in previous months, but rather fully a sign of labor-market strength.

* The household survey is notoriously volatile, and economists are reluctant to read too much into any given month’s data. However, the job gains in this survey match up with strong readings on January manufacturing and services.

// more

****************************************************************

3. Recovery!

Lower Jobless Rate Points to Payroll Gains, Economists Say

The plunge in U.S. unemployment over the past two months indicates payrolls are about to pick up, or may already have, economists said.

The jobless rate unexpectedly dropped by 0.4 percentage point in January for a second month, bringing it down to 9 percent, the lowest level since April 2009, the Labor Department’s survey of households showed today in Washington. The survey showed employment climbed by 589,000, swamping the 36,000 increase in payrolls reported by the government’s separate poll of employers.

While there is evidence that the payroll count may have been depressed by bad weather, that influence alone isn’t enough to explain the gap, economists said. The household survey is best able to capture employment in new business and also takes into account Americans who work for themselves, two areas that may be accelerating as the world’s largest economy improves.

“The household survey has a history of leading payrolls in a recovery, so we’re setting ourselves up for a pretty strong improvement in payrolls,” said Stephen Stanley, chief economist at Pierpont Securities LLC in Stamford, Connecticut. “The numbers that look weak on the surface now will turn more robust by the March-April-May period. There’s ample evidence that firms are getting more comfortable about adding workers.”

// more

****************************************************************

4. Bad, bad big government!

U.S. Awards $27 Million in SunShot Program to Reduce Cost of Solar Energy

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded about $27 million to nine companies developing technology aimed at making solar energy more affordable.

The agency said its long-term goal is to cut the cost of utility-scale solar projects by 75 percent by 2020, to $1 a watt, according to a statement today.

Making solar systems more cost-effective would help meet President Barack Obama’s goal of generating 80 percent of U.S. electricity from renewable energy, natural gas, nuclear and so- called clean coal, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said in a conference call today.

The energy department awarded $20.1 million in grants under its SunShot program to companies that are working to reduce the costs of solar energy.

North Lexington, Massachusetts-based 1366 Technologies Inc. received $3 million; St. Paul, Minnesota-based 3M Co. received $4.4 million; Pittsburgh-based PPG Industries Inc. received $3.1 million; and Gloucester, Massachusetts-based Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates Inc. and Plainview, New York- based Veeco Instruments Inc. each received $4.8 million. The final amounts may vary, and the agency said it may award a total of as much as $20.3 million.

Four California companies were awarded $7 million under the department’s Photovoltaic Solar Incubator Program, which supports the commercialization of emerging solar technologies.

Pasadena-based Caelux, San Jose-based Solexant Corp. and Menlo Park-based Stion Corp. will each receive $1 million to develop viable prototypes over the next year. Santa Clara-based Crystal Solar Inc. will receive as much as $4 million to develop a pilot stage manufacturing process.

**************************************************************