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US unemployment.

The nation's unemployment rate slipped to 7.0 per cent from 7.1 per cent in January, while the number of jobs created jumped sharply in a sign of strength, the Labour Department said. The 7.00 per cent jobless rate was the lowest since November 1991. The department said the economy created 365,000 jobs in February the biggest one-month jump in ,four years. It produced a meagre 44,000 new Jobs in January.

Most of the new Jobs were in the construction, retail and service industries and included a considerable number of temporary workers, the department said. Economists had expected the report to show that 124,000 jobs were created in February and that the jobless rate would be unchanged from 7.1 per cent in January. William Barron, deputy commissioner of the department's Bureau of Labour Statistics, said last month's surge in Jobs should be viewed with caution since it contrasts so sharply with the more sluggish pace of job growth recently.

"Nonetheless, it is clear that the Job market strengthened considerably in February." Barron said, Reaction in the financial markets was swift. The benchmark 30-year Treasury bond fell one full point in price to 104 2/32 and the yield rose to 6.80 per cent from Thursday's close of 6.73 per cent as traders apparently interpreted the positive figures as signalling more inflationary risk.

Although there had been signs that the economy's strained effort to recover from recession over the past two years was finally picking up steam, more recent data have cast doubt over the durability of the upturn. Economists said a burst of strength late last year, led by a 4.8 per cent growth rate in the fourth quarter of 1992, is unlikely to be sustained in the first quarter of this year. Consumer optimism that shot up after last year's November presidential elections is weakening, sales of new and existing homes tumbled sharply last month and the government's key economic forecasting guage barely rose in January.

Even before the recent signs of weakness emerged, the Clinton administration was determined to push ahead with its proposed $30 billion stimulus programme aimed at creating 500,000 jobs in the next year. Of the 365,000 jobs created last month, about one-fourth were in usually high-wage construction jobs, the department said.

But the largest job growth came in the usually low-paying retail industry, where 131,000 jobs were added. Another 131,000 jobs were added in service industries, led by the business and health sectors. There was virtually no growth in the high-paying manufacturing sector of the economy. Instead of hiring new workers, manufacturers continued to work their current employees longer.

The factory work week were rose to 41.5 hours in February from 41.4 hours, its highest level since 1966, while the average amount of factory overtime rose to a record 4.2 hours a week from 4.0 hours in January, the department said. The number of jobless workers fell 137,000 last month to 8.88 million, which was down by 900,000 from last June when the jobless rate peaked at 7.7 per cent. Nearly all of the decline in joblessness has been among adult men and teenagers.

The labour force grew by 244,000 last month to 127.33 million, while the number of employed American rose by 380,000 to 118.45 million. But the number of people working part-time for economic reasons, a group known as the "partially employed", rose by 348,000 in February to 6.5 million, up about 1.5 million since the recession began in the summer of 1990.

More of us than ever

With the 1992 population already at 5,48 billion we face four decades of the fastest growth in human numbers in all history, Between now and the end of the century, we will be adding 97 million people annually - roughly another Mexico every year. With a likely population of 8,5 billion by 2025, and 10 billion by 2050, the long-range estimates show a likely world population of 11.6 billion by 2150.
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Publication:Economic Review
Date:Apr 1, 1993
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