House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) said in a statement that “today marks the 34th consecutive month of unemployment above eight percent. As you may remember, the Obama administration promised unemployment would stay below eight percent if its ‘stimulus’ was enacted. That promise has gone unfulfilled.”
The new jobs report was not as good as it might appear from the decline in the unemployment rate. About half the drop came about for a good reason — more people describing themselves as employed — and half for a bad reason — people dropping out of the labor force, perhaps out of frustration. Average hourly earnings rose only 0.1 percent, or 2 cents, to $23.18. The 120,000 net new jobs employers reported is only about the rate of job creation needed to keep pace with a rising population.
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But in a more positive sign, the Labor Department said that job creation was stronger in September and October than originally estimated, by a combined 72,000 jobs. And the survey of U.S. households, on which the unemployment rate is based, has now shown strong job growth for four straight months — 321,000 jobs a month, on average, since August. That hints that there may be some momentum in the economy that is not being captured by surveys of employers, perhaps as a result of rising self-employment or company start-ups.
The components of the jobs gain show the mixed picture. The biggest gainer was retail; the nation’s stores added 50,000 jobs in November — and the data are adjusted to filter out the usual seasonal variations, meaning that they added that many people over and above their usual holiday hiring. That suggests optimism about the holiday sales season.
Temporary employment services added 22,000 jobs. That bodes well; that category often presages overall job creation in the future, with employers adding temps before bringing on people full time.
“Overall this is a decent report in the context of an economy growing modestly, but there are clear signs in the household employment and temp numbers to suggest better times ahead,” said Ian Shepherdson, with High Frequency Economics.
The big jobs loser was government, as it has been for most of the past year. Public employment in November fell by 20,000 jobs, of which 5,000 were cuts by the U.S. Postal Service.
Staff writer Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.