Expectations for today's new jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics were modest, at best. The most optimistic forecasts projected growth of about 155,000.
The nation did much better than that, adding 243,000 jobs in January, as the overall unemployment rate dropped to 8.3%. The job totals are the best we've seen in two years, and the jobless rate has reached its lowest level in three years.
As is always the case, there was a gap between the private and public sectors. Businesses added 257,000 jobs last month, while budget cuts forced the public sector to shed another 14,000 jobs.
Nevertheless, it's hard not to feel good about the surprising strength of this new report. After years of jobs reports that were only considered encouraging when compared to where we've been, January's total is objectively good news. Indeed, this is one of the best -- if not the very best -- jobs reports since the recession began four years ago.
In terms of revisions, the job numbers for November and December were better than previously reported. Today, the BLS also released revised totals for every month in the previous calendar year, and those revisions are reflected below.
We now know, in 2011, the economy added 1.8 million jobs, which obviously isn't good enough, but it was still the strongest year for job creation since 2006. We've also seen the economy add over 900,000 jobs in just the last five months.
And with that, here's the homemade chart I run on the first Friday of every month, showing monthly job losses since the start of the Great Recession. The image makes a distinction -- red columns point to monthly job totals under the Bush administration, while blue columns point to job totals under the Obama administration.
Update: Here's another chart, this one showing monthly job losses/gains in just the private sector since the start of the Great Recession. Note: these reflect the revised BLS data for all of 2011.