ADP: We gained 118,000 jobs in November. That’s really bad.

December 5, 2012

The Bureau of Labor Statistics will release its estimates of job growth and unemployment changes on Friday. But as we've explained before, BLS's initial estimates are often revised drastically. Indeed, a private forecaster, ADP, produces initial estimates that are closer to BLS's final numbers than BLS itself. Since December 2007, ADP has been off by an average of 69,857 jobs, while BLS itself has been off by an average of 78,694 jobs, as this graph shows:


So arguably you should pay more attention to ADP's numbers than BLS's.

If that's the case, then ADP's latest report, released this morning, should give you cause for concern. It estimated that the economy gained 118,000 jobs in November, down from 157,000 in October. Both of those numbers are seasonally adjusted, so they don't reflect arbitrary patterns, though ADP notes that Hurricane Sandy likely had an impact. What's worse, the 157,000 number is revised down slightly from an initial estimate of 158,000.

This is a very bad trend, should it keep up. The Hamilton Project's calculator suggests that if we keep adding 118,000 jobs a month, we'll get back to our pre-recession situation on jobs…never, or at least not until after 2025. Even worse, the jobs gap won't close before 2025 even if we gain 157,000 jobs a month, keeping up the October figure.

If we keep adding jobs as we have been, the recession could haunt the labor market for two whole decades. And if the austerity crisis hits, the period of pain will be even longer. That's why some, like the Obama administration and the Bipartisan Policy Center, make a point of including stimulus measure in their debt "grand bargains."

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Brad Plumer | December 5, 2012