In November, the U.S. unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in four years and 146,000 jobs were added by a still-improving economy, but the background news to both numbers muted any celebration.
November’s jobless rate dipped to 7.7 percent, the best since February 2008, but some of that can be attributed to the fact that 350,000 workers gave up looking for a job and dropped out of the work force. The Labor Department only counts those actively seeking work as unemployed.
Less than Impressed
The job creation numbers also had a twist to them. The 146,000 new jobs were 58 percent higher than what economists predicted for November (they estimated 85,000 new jobs), but barely make a dent in the overall unemployment number of 12 million Americans.
“It’s not something to get too excited about,” Nigel Gault, chief U.S. economist for IHS Global Insight, told The New York Times. “The number is 146,000, and the average so far this year is 151,000. We’re pretty much in line with what we’ve been doing.”
Republican House Speaker John Boehner, still engaged in a battle with President Obama over the “fiscal cliff” crisis, was among those not impressed with the lukewarm employment numbers.
“The Democrats’ plan to slow-walk our economy to the edge of the fiscal cliff instead of engaging in serious talks is a threat to our economy,” Boehner said in a statement. “The slow-walk strategy is unfair to taxpayers, unfair to small businesses and unfair to all those looking for work.”
Heidi Shierholz, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute, said that while the unemployment meter is running in the right direction, the pace is so slow that it would take 10 years to return to the pre-recession unemployment rate.
“The November data provide a clear reminder that mass joblessness remains the real and present economic danger this country faces,” Shierholz said. “This country has 4.8 million workers who have been unemployed for more than six months, four times as many as the 1.2 million in 2007.”
Retail Sector Leads the Way
The retail sector, continuing a trend started three months ago, showed the most significant gains, adding 53,000 jobs in November. Retail trade employment is up 140,000 over the last three months.
Professional and business services added 43,000 jobs, while the health care industry picked up 20,000. The construction industry suffered the biggest downturn, losing 20,000 jobs.
John Galvin, acting commissioner for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said that Hurricane Sandy, which was supposed to have a negative impact on the unemployment rate, was no factor at all. Galvin said that workers have to be off work for an entire pay period and not be paid for the time missed in order to be counted among the unemployed.
Some of the workers in the areas of the Northeast hardest hit by Hurricane Sandy missed a few days or worked half-days while businesses cleaned up after the storm.
Bill “No Pay” Fay has lived a meager financial existence his entire life. He started writing/bragging about it seven years ago, helping birth Debt.org into existence as the site’s original “Frugal Man.” Prior to that, he spent more than 30 years covering college and professional sports, which are the fantasy worlds of finance. His work has been published by the Associated Press, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Sports Illustrated and Sporting News, among others. His interest in sports has waned some, but his interest in never reaching for his wallet is as passionate as ever. Bill can be reached at email@example.com.
- THE EMPLOYMENT SITUATION -- NOVEMBER 2012. (2012, December 7). Bureau of Labor Statistics [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm
- Boehner, J. (2012, December 7). Democrats’ “Slow-Walk” Strategy on Fiscal Cliff Threatens the Economy [Press release]. Retrieved from http://boehner.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=314800
- Shierholz, H. (2012, December 7). Middling job growth in November. Economic Policy Institute. Retrieved from http://www.epi.org/publication/national-jobs-picture-december-2012/
- Galvin, J. (2012, December 7). Statement of John M. Galvin, Acting Commissioner, Bureau of Labor Statistics [Press release]. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/news.release/pdf/jec.pdf
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