Nightly News   |  February 01, 2013

Economy generates modest number of jobs

The economy added 157,000 new jobs in January. Not quite as many as many economists had hoped and the unemployment rate inched up to 7.9 percent. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

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>>> stock market crossed over something of a mythic mark of the modern era and the dow jones industrials closed above 14,000 for the first time since 2007 . and we all remember what happened back then. the stock market has been on a tear of late, gaining almost 7% so far this year. s&p and nasdaq also up. we started the day by learning the unemployment rate had inched up to 7.9% again, while the economy actually added 157,000 jobs, not as many as hoped for or expected. nbc's tom costello starts us off in our washington newsroom tonight with what all of this might mean. tom, good evening.

>> hi, brian. the good news, anyone with retirement money invested in stocks has made back much of what they lost during the great recession and the wall street selloff, about $8 trillion. a big rally on wall street today, with the dow back over 14,000. a lot has changed since the last time it crossed that mark on october 12th , 2007 . within a year, lehman brothers and bear stearns failed. housing prices went off a cliff. the unemployment rate went from 4.7% to 10% before falling back to 7.9% today. in portland, oregon this week, more than 900 people applied for 160 new jobs at two new hardware stores .

>> 80% of the people we saw were -- had been out of work for three months to up to two years.

>> reporter: julie observer has been out of work for 16 months.

>> my last job was front desk at a pain management company. and just -- i actually got sick. and couldn't be there any longer.

>> reporter: nationwide, some 12 million americans are still out of work.

>> 7.9% unemployment simply not good enough. with that, wages don't rise. older folks don't see enough stock market gains to retire. and there's not enough new jobs for young people leaving school.

>> reporter: while the jobs picture has been slowly improving, it's been a different story on wall street . after bottoming out four years ago, the dow has since climbed 111%. cnn's bob pisani has seen a mood shift on wall street .

>> the economy is slowly improving. it's not fast enough for a lot of people, unemployment is too high. but some of the key economic indicators are definitely getting better.

>> reporter: what's going right for the economy? manufacturing has picked. while the unemployment rate edged up to 7.9% in january, we also learned more jobs were added in 2012 than first reported. meanwhile, fear of a financial crisis is lessening. back in portland, julie ober's job hunt is now over.

>> i got the job!

>> one more economic note. we talked last night about how gas prices are climbing fast. they moved even higher since then. now averaging $3.46 a gallon nation nationally, up almost 20 cents in just a month, brian.

>> tom costello starting us off from washington tonight. tom, thanks.