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Economists predict weak U.S. job market in January

By Ted Regencia (Xinhua)

10:47, February 03, 2012

NEW YORK, Feb. 2 (Xinhua) -- Despite a busy holiday season that saw a gain of 200,000 jobs in December, some economists estimate a sluggish U.S. job market in the first month of 2012, as the positive effect of the shopping spree on the labor market eased off.

They expected only over 100,000 jobs were added in January and the unemployment rate could inch up to 8.6 percent.

As the holiday shopping season ended, as many as 40,000 couriers and messengers hired late last year were most likely to be left without a job in January, according to Heidi Shierholz, an economist at the Economic Policy Institute in Washington D.C.

Additionally, the construction sector also slowed down due to adverse weather conditions and the already weak building activity across the country.

"I think we're probably going to get somewhere in the range of 100,000 to 120, 000 jobs," Shierholz said.

The U.S. government is expected to release its latest job market numbers on Friday.

While the health sector is expected to see some growth, along with trading and manufacturing, they will be offset by the losses of jobs in state and local governments, she added.

"We're adding enough jobs to keep things from getting worse," said Shierholz. "But we are not adding enough to start digging our way out of the hole we are in."

The "hole" Shierholz refers to is the remaining labor market gap of over 10 million jobs, which was lost during the recession. Just to hold the unemployment rate steady, the U.S. economy needs to create 90,000 jobs a month.

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