So, is 132,000 a lot?
The Associated Press' take on the latest US employment numbers from the BLS:
Employers boosted payrolls by a respectable 132,000 in November, but the unemployment rate edged up to 4.5 percent as jobseekers streamed into the labor market by the thousands with the onrushing holidays.So, is 132,000 new seasonally-adjusted jobs a lot?
The tally of new jobs added to the economy last month marked an improvement from the 79,000 new positions generated in October and was the most since September, the Labor Department reported Friday. It was mostly a cheerful economic message at a time of year when shopping peaks.
This is a variant of one of my favorite questions I pose to my political economy students. For example, the World Bank claimed that static efficiency gains from completion of full liberalization through the Doha Round would deliver $287bn. Sounds like a lot -- but is it? (Here's your answer to that one.)
Let's compare November 2006 to the ghosts of Novembers past, and use the non-adjusted numbers. I like focusing on private sector jobs, too, rather than the whole enchilada, so these numbers are just for total private employment.
In November 2006 the US economy added 160,000 real private-sector jobs -- quite a lot fewer than in November 2005 (349,000) but a bit more than November 2004 (103,000). Over the past three months (September-November 2006), the US economy has destroyed 62,000 actual private sector jobs. Over the same period in 2005 the tally was +73,000; in 2004, +230,000.
So is the US economy doing a "respectable" job on jobs? In comparison to even the recent rather lackluster past, I think we have to respond with a resounding "no". Is it a "cheerful economic message"? Certainly to capital, which rejoices whenever labor is taking it on the chin. To the rest of us, perhaps we can hope for a Christmas Carol-like change of heart from old Mr. Scrooge. But I wouldn't just now take out a big loan to buy Tiny Tim a new pair of crutches.