The nation closed out 2009 with a flat 10.0 percent unemployment rate, and economists and other financial experts predicted that we’d still see double-digit unemployment as 2010 started. When today’s figures were released, economists, the media (including me), and others were surprised to see that the January 2010 unemployment rate dropped to 9.7 percent.

Although the unemployment rate dropped, there are still nearly 15 million Americans out of work. The amount of long-term unemployed individuals, those that have been without employment for 27 or more weeks, also climbed during the month. In January 2010 there were 6.3 million long-term unemployed workers, which is up from 1.3 million at the start of the recession (December 2007).

This month’s report is the first to look at the unemployment rate of several population groups including individuals with a disability (15.2 percent unemployment), Gulf War veterans — post-9/11 (12.6 percent), and foreign born individuals (11.8 percent).

While the overall unemployment rate dropped, some trends continued. The construction industry is still seeing job losses; 75,000 more jobs in the construction industry were lost in January. Overall, 1.9 million construction jobs have been lost since December 2007.

The manufacturing industry only saw a small drop in January 2010, posting an 11,000-job loss. This is in contrast to the significant drops seen throughout 2009. A few sectors of the industry actually saw job increases in 2010 including motor vehicles and parts (+23,000 jobs) and plastics and rubber products (+6,000 jobs).

The federal government also added jobs including 9,000 temporary workers to help complete Census 2010. These 9,000 jobs account for just over one-fourth of the total federal government jobs added in January 2010.

While the unemployment figures are better than most expected and improved from December 2009, the threat of a jobless recovery is still there. The GDP is improving, signaling a recovery from the recession, but the jobs aren’t coming as quickly as many would like to see – especially those looking for employment.

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