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Look out jobs market: pitfalls ahead

Like a plodding pachyderm, the latest data shows the U.S. jobs market is only trudging along. The Labor Department reports there were 155,000 new jobs added in December, while November's gains were upwardly revised to 161,000. And the unemployment rate hovers at 7.8 percent. Economist, Max Wolff at Greencrest Capital says last month's data closed out 2012 like a carbon copy of 2011. SOUNDBITE: MAX WOLFF, ECONOMIST, GREENCREST CAPITAL (ENGLISH) SAYING: "We're growing but barely so as you'd notice." While the labor market is merely stuck in a holding pattern now - look out America's workers - there's a rough path ahead in 2013. First, there's the issue of wages: SOUNDBITE: MAX WOLFF, ECONOMIST, GREENCREST CAPITAL (ENGLISH) SAYING: "The average American has seen no statistical increase in his or her paycheck in five years. That is a long time to go without a raise." With consumer spending driving 70% of the U.S. economy, if people don't have more to spend, there's no new demand and employers don't hire. Second issue: there's corporate profits; after rising for several years, John Lonski of Moody's notes they're losing steam. SOUNDBITE: JOHN LONSKI, CHIEF U.S. ECONOMIST, MOODY'S CAPITAL MARKETS RESEARCH GROUP (ENGLISH) SAYING: "If profits are going to be relatively flat, it's hard to imagine why businesses will have a strong incentive to increase the rate of hiring activity." And last, there's a nasty battle brewing over spending cuts and raising the debt ceiling. SOUNDBITE: MAX WOLFF, ECONOMIST, GREENCREST CAPITAL (ENGLISH) SAYING: "If we go to draconian cuts, if we have multiple showdowns, if we see the U.S. credit rating cut - all of which are unfortunately quite possible in the next 90 days then I would start to become highly concerned that the second half of 2013 will be less strong than 2012." However, if politicians can push through matters with some efficiency, that clears one of the big burdens of the economy's big burdens. And that could pave the way to jobs growth rather than staying stuck in the mud, or worse.

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