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State added 16,100 jobs in Jan.

Unemployment rate remains at 6.7 percent

Job seekers at a New York job fair.

Shannon Stapleton/REUTERS/File

Job seekers at a New York job fair.

The Massachusetts unemployment rate held steady in January at 6.7 percent as the local economy added 16,100 jobs in the first month of 2013, the state’s Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported Thursday morning.

The current US unemployment is 7.9 percent.

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Sectors of the Massachusetts economy that added jobs in January included professional, scientific, and business services; leisure and hospitality; and construction, the executive office said.

One sector shedding jobs was the category for government workers.

The Massachusetts unemployment rate was 6.7 percent in December. The state’s average unemployment rate for all of 2012 was initially reported as 6.5 percent. As more data has been analyzed, that 2012 average has been revised to 6.7 percent.

One wild card for the local economy has been how the so-called sequestration debate and the wrangling over federal budget cuts will play out in Washington.

Those political decisions could have a major impact on Massachusetts, whose universities, research institutions, and defense contractors receive a greater share of federal research and defense dollars than many other states.

Earlier this week, the Associated Industries of Massachusetts reported that its monthly business confidence index dropped as Bay State employers fretted about the fallout from the spending debates in Washington.

Also pressuring the local economy is the fact that Massachusetts relies heavily on exporting goods to Europe and China, and those two regions have been challenged by economic issues of their own.

Persistently high unemployment hasn’t stopped the stock market. The Dow Jones industrial average, which has gotten a boost from strong corporate profits and low interest rates, has been surging. It hit a record Tuesday, and it was up again Wednesday to close at 14,296.24.

The stock market’s perfomance suggests that the recovery is unfolding unevenly. Not only has unemployment holding been steady at historically high levels, but median housing prices are still below what they were in 2007 before the recession hit.

Chris Reidy can be reached at reidy@globe.com.
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