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Growth in Jobs Overcame Slump In November

Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan listens to a speech at a meeting of world finance ministers and central-bank governors yesterday in London. At rear is Gordon Brown, the British chancellor of the exchequer.
Federal Reserve Board Chairman Alan Greenspan listens to a speech at a meeting of world finance ministers and central-bank governors yesterday in London. At rear is Gordon Brown, the British chancellor of the exchequer. (By Toby Melville -- Reuters)

But many employers across the country hired new workers in September and October, offsetting the number of jobs wiped out by the hurricanes. Meanwhile, oil and gasoline prices have receded to below the levels of late summer and consumer confidence has started to recover.

By November, employers across a broad range of industries were adding workers at about the same monthly rate as before the storms.

Some of the 37,000 jobs added last month in the construction industry reflected rebuilding and clean-up after Katrina, Rita and Hurricane Wilma, which struck Florida in October, Kathleen P. Utgoff, commissioner of labor statistics, said in a written statement.

Many other new construction jobs reflected the strong, though cooling, housing market, analysts said.

Employment growth also rebounded in some industries hit hard hit by the hurricanes. Restaurants and bars, which had lost jobs for two months, added 39,000 in November.

Unemployment varied among population groups. The rate among black workers rose to 10.6 percent last month from 9.1 percent in October. That was more than double the white unemployment rate, which edged down to 4.3 percent in November from 4.4 percent the month before. Latino unemployment rose to 6 percent from 5.8 percent.

Hourly wages for most workers rose 3.2 percent over the 12 months that ended in November, the fastest annual rate since March 2003, the Labor Department said. Some analysts said the gains may contribute to rising inflationary pressures.

Average weekly wages fell slightly for production and non-managerial workers, who account for more than 80 percent of the workforce, because they worked fewer hours overall.

"The economy looks better on paper than it feels to the overwhelming majority of consumers," said Diane Swonk, chief economist with Mesirow Financial.

The Labor Department doesn't track the pay for managers and executives, who make up 20 percent of the workforce, but other data indicate that their incomes have been growing smartly.

Much of the reason for the pay disparity, Swonk said, is the relatively lower demand for workers with less education and fewer skills. "Unless you're highly skilled and highly educated, you're not going to be paid much," she said.

Unemployment varied starkly by education level last month, as it has for years. The rate for workers without high school diplomas rose to 7.4 percent last month from 7.1 percent the month before -- more than triple the 2.3 percent rate in November for those with at least a bachelor's degree.

"This job market pays extremely well to people with college and graduate degrees," Swonk said. "This is a rich man's economy."


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