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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

IOC bans Burke memorial stickers from helmets

The IOC has told at least one athlete, Australian snowboarder Tora Bright, to refrain from using a sticker.


“For us it is a question of what is appropriate,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams told reporters. “We have huge sympathy and she (Burke) needs to be well remembered either individually or collectively.

“The competitions themselves are not the right place to do that and we would like to keep that separate.”

He said the IOC could help organise another event or news conference to remember multiple X Games champion Burke, who died in January from injuries sustained in a training crash in Park city, Utah.

She had successfully lobbied for the inclusion of the superpipe event at this year’s Sochi Games.

“I ride with a Sarah sticker on my snowboard and helmet always. The IOC however, consider Sarah stickers ‘a political statement’ and have banned them. WOW,” Bright wrote on social networking site Instagram.

“Sarah is a beautiful, talented, powerful woman, who’s spirit inspires me still. She is a big reason why skier pipe/slope are now Olympic events.”

The IOC also sent a letter to the Norwegian Olympic Committee reminding them that their decision to wear black armbands in memory of an athlete’s relative who had died before the start of the Olympics in Russia was inappropriate.

The brother of cross-country skier Astrid Uhrenholdt Jacobsen died suddenly a day before the Games opened and the wanted to commemorate him and support their athlete.

Norway’s four skiers in Saturday’s skiathlon raced with black armbands in memory of Jacobsen’s brother.

IOC officials said the letter to the NOC was not an official reprimand but rather a reminder of the rules.

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

Taiwan to raise press freedom in China

Taiwan says it will raise the issue of press freedom with China at their first government-to-government talks since 1949, after media outlets were refused accreditation for this week’s meeting.


The Mainland Affairs Council, which formulates the island’s China policy, said its chairman Wang Yu-chi would “discuss issues related to equal exchanges of news information” when he meets on Tuesday with his counterpart Zhang Zhijun, China’s Taiwan Affairs Office chief.

“Press freedom is a universal value. We’ve repeatedly said that the most important thing regarding news exchange between the two sides is the free and equal flow of information,” it said in a statement.

The talks in Nanjing in China’s eastern Jiangsu province, and a later visit to Shanghai, are the fruit of years of efforts to normalise relations and mark the first official contact between sitting governments since a split six decades ago.

Two million supporters of the nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek fled to Taiwan – officially known as Republic of China – after losing a civil war to Mao Zedong’s Communists in 1949.

The island and the mainland have been governed separately ever since.

The mood surrounding the talks soured in Taiwan after Beijing refused to issue credentials to the Taipei-based Apple Daily and the US government-funded Radio Free Asia on the weekend.

China’s decision also sparked rebukes from the Association of Taiwan Journalists (ATJ) and the affiliated International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) over what they described as an attack on journalists.

“Again this indicated that the Chinese government has gravely suppressed freedom of press,” the ATJ said in a statement on Sunday.

The IFJ said it also called on the governments of Taiwan and China to sign an “Agreement to Ensure News Freedom” and to immediately refrain from using visas or permits as “instruments of censorship”.

Apple Daily was founded by Hong Kong business tycoon Jimmy Lai, an outspoken critic of human rights standards in China, while Radio Free Asia was established to provide an alternative to state-run media for people living under repressive regimes.

Taiwan’s leading opposition Democratic Progressive Party also demanded Wang relay “serious protests” to China during his four-day trip.

Wang has previously said he wants to use the visit to raise issues including proposed liaison offices, bilateral efforts on regional economic integration and better healthcare for Taiwanese students studying on the mainland.

Ties between Taiwan and China have improved markedly since Ma Ying-jeou of the China-friendly Kuomintang party came to power in 2008 on platforms of beefing up trade and tourism links.

He was re-elected in January 2012.

Vic premier seeks money for Toyota workers

Premier Denis Napthine will fly to Canberra on Tuesday in a bid to secure commonwealth support for Victorian workers impacted by Toyota’s decision to cease manufacturing in Australia.


About 2500 jobs are expected to be lost from the state’s Altona plant, with countless more likely to go from the components sector.

Dr Napthine said he would seek a package that extends to workers in the supply chain when he and Deputy Premier Peter Ryan meet with Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

He dismissed estimates the announcement could cost 30,000 jobs, but said the number of supply chain losses would potentially be several thousand.

A comprehensive adjustment package was needed for affected workers, he said.

“We are looking to provide assistance to affected workers,” Dr Napthine told reporters on Monday.

“We need to work with the workers to identify other opportunities for training and retraining to enhance their job prospects in a broader, diverse job market in Victoria.”

He would not put a dollar figure on the package he is seeking.

Toyota’s decision follows announcements by Holden and Ford to shut down local production.

About 1000 jobs will go from Victoria by the time Ford closes shop in October 2016, with another 1300 to be lost when Holden follows in 2017.

But the premier dismissed suggestions the state was headed for recession.

“The Victorian economy is a diverse and robust economy,” Dr Napthine said.

Victorian Employers’ Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Mark Stone says it is more important than ever that governments work with business to capitalise on enduring strengths and overcome obstacles.

Unions have savaged the federal government following Toyota’s announcement.

The ACTU said the Abbott government goaded Holden into leaving and had done nothing to keep Toyota.

But Dr Napthine said world factors were responsible for the irreversible decision.

“In each of the recent decisions, the companies concerned have referred to international factors,” he said.

These include the high Australian dollar, fierce competition in the local market and the relatively high cost of production.

Victorian Opposition Leader Daniel Andrews said the Napthine government would be remembered for doing nothing while the car industry died.

“Fifty thousand Victorian workers needed a jobs plan but Denis Napthine failed every single one of them,” Mr Andrews said.

NSW farmer warns of CSG Trojan Horse

Farmer Alistair Donaldson is worried a CSG project in northern NSW will have a devastating impact on a forest, sacred sites and agriculture in the region.


“It’ll just turn this place into an absolute shithole,” he says of Santos’ coal seam gas (CGS) project in the Pilliga.

There are eight wells operating at the moment as part of the pilot phase but Mr Donaldson reckon’s it’s only the start, claiming about 6000 had been sunk through the Great Artesian Basin in Queensland.

“This is the Trojan Horse here, 850 wells,” the 51-year-old told AAP from the farm his family have been working on for 135 years.

“It’ll probably move to other areas of the scrub and the actual forest and the conservation areas and then in all directions.”

Since July, only 50mm of rain have fallen on Mr Donaldson’s property which relies on four bores for his cattle and crops.

Drilling through the Great Artesian Basin will make the already scarce water harder to access and less reliable, he says.

“Anyone out there … if they don’t have a decent underground water supply they’re literally finished, their business will effectively close down,” Mr Donaldson said.

“I have such a fear for the future of agriculture.”

With many of the younger locals “frying their brains and their livers” on the huge wages they’re paid to work in the resources sector, Mr Donaldson fears there will be “a lost generation” of farmers.

“It’s pretty hard to find anyone that’s coming back on the land.

“The average age in farming around here’s about 57, 58.”

Earlier on Monday, officers ordered all protesters to leave the Pilliga but Carmel Flint from Armidale locked herself to a truck to prevent it moving parts of a drill rig through the forest.

The 42-year-old freed herself on Monday afternoon and was arrested, protesters told AAP.

A Santos spokesman said the actions of some protesters on Monday put their lives at risk, along with the safety of Santos workers.

“Santos’ exploration and drilling program in the Pilliga has all of the relevant government approvals to allow us to carry out a program that is both safe for the community and safe for environment,” he told AAP.

Barca, Real on the brink of Cup final showdown

The record domestic Cup winners with 26 titles, Barca are 2-0 up on Real Sociedad ahead of their semi-final second leg in San Sebastian on Wednesday (2100 GMT).


Real, who have claimed the trophy 18 times and are third on the all-time list behind Athletic Bilbao with 23, have a 3-0 cushion before their trip across the capital to play holders Atletico Madrid on Tuesday (2000).

As well as revenge for last season’s 2-1 defeat in the final, Real’s convincing performance in last week’s first leg at the Bernabeu was the latest evidence they are coming into form just as the season is approaching a critical juncture.

Barca suffered a surprise wobble in La Liga at the beginning of the month, losing 3-2 at home to Valencia, but have made serene progress in the Cup and returned to the top of the league thanks to Sunday’s impressive 4-1 comeback win at Sevilla.

Their four-time World Player of the Year Lionel Messi has taken time to get back into his stride following a two-month injury layoff around the turn of the year but his superb double in Seville suggested he is not far off his scintillating best.

“If anyone says anything negative about him all they are doing is provoking him,” Barca coach Gerardo Martino, who hails from Messi’s home town of Rosario in Argentina, told a news conference.

“And if you provoke the world’s best player his next opponent will have a problem.

“He is always decisive, even if it is merely a matter of dragging opposition players into the centre and anything that distracts their attention is positive.”


Real also look to have their latest “galactico” signing, Wales winger Gareth Bale, back to full fitness after a series of minor niggles.

The world’s most expensive player opened the scoring in Saturday’s 4-2 La Liga win at home to Villarreal and set up Karim Benzema for the second of the night.

“I scored a fantastic goal and made an assist,” Bale told reporters. “I am very pleased and available for the coach for our upcoming games.

“I am working hard on the pitch and in every training session so I can be in the team.”

Once the Cup semi-finals are out of the way, Barca have one more La Liga game, at home to struggling Rayo Vallecano, before they play at Manchester City in the last 16 of the Champions League on February 18.

Real play at Getafe and host Elche in La Liga before their trip to Germany to meet Schalke 04 on February 26.

(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)