Employment seen gaining speed though jobless rate up

Employment probably shifted into a higher gear in January to post a fourth straight month of gains, offering more evidence of a broadening economic recovery, though the jobless rate likely rose.

The government is expected to report on Friday that nonfarm payrolls grew 145,000, according to a Reuters survey, after adding 103,000 in December. But severe snow storms that slammed large parts of the nation could result in a much lower figure.

All of the anticipated job gains are expected to have been generated by the private sector and would add to other data suggesting that the manufacturing-driven recovery is now spreading to other sectors of the economy.

The Labor Department will release its closely watched employment report at 8:30 a.m. (1330 GMT).

“All the signals are pointing to a much improved labor market compared with last year and a strong payrolls report would be a nice confirmation that things are certainly headed in the right direction,” said Omair Sharif, an economist at RBS in Stamford, Connecticut.

Still, the employment gains would be insufficient to prevent the jobless rate from edging up to 9.5 percent from 9.4 percent in November and too slim to discourage the Federal Reserve from completing its $600 billion government bond-buying program to support the economy.

The labor market has lagged the broader economy, which grew at a 3.2 percent annual rate in the fourth quarter. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke on Thursday acknowledged the pick-up in the recovery, but said “it will be several years before the unemployment rate has returned to a more normal level.”