Friday, December 03, 2004

"Surprisingly soft"? Only if you really believed those October jobs numbers were based on solid ground -- which you wouldn't have believed if you'd been reading the Globblog and its excellent commentators.

Let's begin with the press coverage.
A surprisingly soft 112,000 new U.S. jobs were created in November, the Labor Department said on Friday, casting a shadow across an already downbeat holiday sales season with consumers apparently worried by scarce work and high oil prices.

The November figure -- the weakest since July -- came in well below Wall Street economists' forecasts for 180,000 new jobs, though the unemployment rate eased to 5.4 percent from 5.5 percent in October.

In addition, Labor lowered its estimates for job growth in both September and October. October's gain was marked down to 303,000 from an originally reported 337,000-job increase. The department cut September's total to 119,000 from 139,000.
This shouldn't really have been a surprise at all. A month ago I noted the Challenger Gray & Christmas lay-off figures were looking pretty high for the fall. In another post I noted how nearly one-fifth of all the new jobs created since April 2003 have been temp jobs, and in comments (now lost in the mists of time) others noted how an unusually large number of the jobs created in October were part-time -- a lot of campaign-related work?

But one has to admit that, 15 months into the jobs expansion, it's still pretty unbelievable that this economy can only muster a paltry 104,000 new private sector jobs. And note that that's the seasonally adjusted figure. In the real world, just 59,000 new private sector jobs were created in November. Also in the real world, December is usually and January is always months of job destruction. The adjusted data will surely show job growth in the next two months, but a phantom seasonally adjusted job doesn't pay the mortgage.

This jobs recession has now been going on for 45 months (the early 1990s "jobless recovery" lasted 38 months) and we're still more than 1% below where we were in February 2001. Truly incredible.

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