US job engine sputters for second month

The US job creation engine sputtered for the second straight month in January, raising fresh questions about the economy’s momentum.

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The Labor Department reported Friday that the economy pumped out a net 113,000 new jobs in January, far fewer than the 175,000 that economists had forecast and even farther off the monthly average for last year of 194,000.

While hiring was strong in construction and professional services, retailers and government authorities at all levels shed significant numbers of workers, the department’s survey of business establishments showed.

It came on the heels of January’s 75,000 net hirings, which analysts had hoped was a seasonal fluke explained by severe weather conditions in much of the country.

The newest data suggested weather was not a significant factor in January.

“Folks, this isn’t good news,” said Brookings Institution economist Justin Wolfers.

“Today’s data suggest recent trends of good-but-not-great jobs growth is continuing. But they warn us to be wary of a slowdown.”

The monthly report carried a tentative silver lining.

The department’s separate survey of households showed a surge in people returning to the workforce and getting jobs: 638,000 more people had work last month over December.

That pulled the overall unemployment rate down to 6.6 per cent from 6.7 per cent in December and 7.9 per cent a year ago.

And the labour force participation rate rose to 63.0 per cent, though that remains extremely low on historical standards.

While economists give less weight to the household survey as an indication of the economy’s strength, they said it moderated the low job creation numbers from the establishment poll.

The data raised questions about whether the Federal Reserve will, or should, continue its two-month-old operation to cut back its huge bond-buying stimulus program.

Based largely on the view that the economy was growing steadily and the jobs market was firming, the Fed sliced $US10 billion ($A11 billion) from the monthly operation in January and is cutting another $US10 billion this month, bringing it to $US65 billion.

While some analysts say the January data could give them reason to pause, Fed policy makers do not meet again until March, when they will also have February’s data under their belts.

AFL change leaves Chappy happy

Star Essendon recruit Paul Chapman will aim to play 16 games this year and adds it is a fact of AFL life that he will need to be rested.

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The 32-year-old says he is excited, rather than nervous, about entering the last phase of his outstanding playing career.

The three-time Geelong premiership player will reunite with old coach Mark Thompson with the Cats deciding late last year that his time had come.

“If I can get 16 games up for the year, it would be good,” he said.

“I will definitely be rested through the year – I dare say I will be asking for rests.

“You get to a stage in your career where you’d love to play them all, but you just have to be smart and think of the bigger picture.

“It’s taken me a little while to get that into my game, or thinking, but it’s definitely there now.”

Chapman does not think Essendon will use him as a substitute.

“Then again, I could be proven wrong and it most likely will happen now I’ve said probably I won’t,” he said, grinning.

The Norm Smith Medallist is also determined that he is not rested for the Anzac Day blockbuster or round 15, when Essendon play his old club.

“We’re hoping it’s not against Geelong … and the Anzac one, I wouldn’t like to sit out on that, either,” he said.

“They’re the two I have pencilled in to hopefully play.”

Injuries restricted Chapman to only 12 senior games last year and he is determined to repay Essendon’s faith.

He also feels rejuvenated by moving clubs.

“The best thing about the move is how positive it’s been,” he said.

“Now I just can’t wait to get out there with my teammates and just prove to them that the way that we play is the right way to play and I’m in there with them 100 per cent.

“You can fall into the same old trap – here we go again – same place, same gym, all that.

“Everything has changed. You get refreshed; you re-charge the batteries.

“I probably needed the change more than what I thought.”

He will sit out Essendon’s opening pre-season game next Monday against Gold Coast, but plans to return for the following match.

It has been a big off-season for Chapman, with his partner Lauren also giving birth to their first child Myles 12 days ago.

He is adamant that young Myles will have no fatherly pressure about sport.

“He can go for whoever he wants; he can play whatever he wants,” Chapman said.

Mancuso halfway to super combined gold, now the hard part

With the slalom part of the event to come later, Mancuso put 1.

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04 seconds between herself and her German rival for the first women’s Alpine skiing title at the Sochi Games, slicing down a sunlit Rosa Khutor in 1:42.68 to top the leaderboard.

Hoefl-Riesch, who beat Mancuso to gold in Vancouver four years ago, was only fifth quickest after the downhill leg.

The tall German will still be hopeful of charging for gold later in the slalom leg, having had nine career World Cup wins in the technical discipline which is not Mancuso’s strength.

She will have her work cut out, however, with the likes of Swiss Lara Gut, who was second 0.47 seconds behind Mancuso, and Slovenian all-rounder Tina Maze (0.86) also in front of her after the downhill.

“It wasn’t perfect but a lot can still happen in the slalom,” a relaxed-looking Hoefl-Riesch told reporters.

The experienced Mancuso, Olympic gold medallist in giant slalom in Turin in 2006, celebrated as if she had already won the title in the finish area where her grandmother was watching.

“It felt good. I was definitely looking for extra speed when I kicked out of the start gate,” she told reporters.

“I was really happy to cross the finish line and see I was in the lead. But that other run is pretty tough and it’s not my strength. But I’m really going to try my best.

“Anything is possible at the Olympics, you can never count anyone out.

“I already said I’m doing it for my grandfather, who can’t be here this year. But my grandma’s here,” the 29-year-old added.

Mancuso has not raced a World Cup slalom this season and has never been on the podium but fellow American Laurenne Ross said there was hope for her team mate.

“It’s going to be pretty tough,” Ross, who crashed out after losing a ski, told reporters.

“But it helps that it’s sunny and a little warm. I think that it’s actually going to be something that Julia looks forward to and she always manages to pull out a pretty good slalom run. I’m excited to watch and see what she can do.”

Liechtenstein’s Tina Weirather, one of the leading racers on the World Cup this season, did not start but hopes to have recovered from a leg injury in time to compete in Wednesday’s downhill.

(Additional reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

US, France want climate change deal

The presidents of France and the United States are jointly calling for other nations to join them in seeking an “ambitious” agreement to curb climate change.

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Presidents Barack Obama and Francois Hollande, writing in an article in the Washington Post and Le Monde on Monday, called for support “in pursuit of an ambitious and inclusive global agreement” to reduce greenhouse gas emissions “through concrete actions” at a climate conference in Paris in 2015.

Co-operation on a host of global issues – which include the Syrian crisis, Iran’s nuclear program, and security in Africa – has resulted in France and the United States enjoying a “model” relationship, the presidents wrote.

The joint opinion piece comes as Hollande travels to the United States on Monday for a state visit.

“Rooted in a friendship stretching back more than two centuries, our deepening partnership offers a model for international co-operation,” the presidents wrote.

“Transnational challenges cannot be met by any one nation alone. More nations must step forward and share the burden and costs of leadership.”

Ties between the two countries have warmed considerably since chilling over France’s refusal to support the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq under president George W Bush.

“A decade ago, few would have imagined our countries working so closely together in so many ways. But in recent years our alliance has transformed,” the presidents wrote.

The two countries “have been able to take our alliance to a new level because our interests and values are so closely aligned,” they said.

Regarding climate change, even as the United States and France “reduce our own carbon emissions, we can expand the clean energy partnerships that create jobs and move us toward low-carbon growth. We can do more to help developing countries shift to low-carbon energy as well, and deal with rising seas and more intense storms,” they wrote.

Unemployment rate to creep up, again

Jobs growth in January is expected to have bounced after a weak result in December but economic growth is still staying at a below average pace.

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Official labour force figures, to be released on Thursday, are expected to show that the number of people with jobs rose by 15,000 in January, after a surprise fall of 22,600 in December.

January’s unemployment rate is forecast to rise to 5.9 per cent, from 5.8 per cent the month before, an AAP survey of 12 economists shows.

ANZ head of Australian economics Justin Fabo said the pace of jobs growth is still not enough to bring the unemployment rate down.

“Overall, most labour market indicators still suggest that underlying employment growth remains soft,” he said.

“The expected rise in employment in January would still be shy of the roughly 20,000 per month necessary to maintain a stable employment-to-population ratio.

“It’s also worth noting that the past two January reports have shown strong rises in employment which may be associated with a change in seasonal patterns that the seasonally adjustment processes are slow to capture.”

JP Morgan Australia chief economist Stephen Walters said there were many indications pointing to employment growth still being weak.

“Job advertisements and vacancies are still moving backwards, and the levels of the NAB business survey employment intentions index remain in line with the poor average level that has held through the Reserve Bank of Australia’s easing cycle,” he said.

“For this reason, we see little scope for relief from the upward trend in the unemployment rate in this week’s labour force survey.

“However, we are wary of how depressed the employment estimates were through most of last year.

“It is unusual to see such a prolonged period of underperformance in the monthly employment series.”

The participation rate – the percentage of the working-age population either in work or looking for a job – is expected to stay steady at 64.6 per cent in January.