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Monday, December 07, 2009

A Pretty Good Employment Situation Report for November

The Employment Situation report for November has a number of positive developments.

First, of course, the top-line number for most people--the unemployment rate--fell from 10.2% in October to 10.0% in November.

Second, two major sectors (Professional and Business Services; Education and Health Services) both added jobs--a total gain in these sectors of 126,000 jobs, only 0.3%, to be sure, but a gain.

Third, the overall employment loss was only 11,000 jobs in the establishment survey--and the household survey actually showed a gain of 227,000 jobs. (The employment loss in the establishment survey was the smallest in the past 22 months, by a lot.)

Fourth, the employment loss in the establishment survey has gotten smaller each month since June. The job losses look like this:

June 2009:................-463,000
July 2009:.................-304,000
August 2009:............-154,000
September 2009:.....-139,000

October 2009:..........-111,000
November 2009:........-11,000

Paul Krugman sees a potential downside in this better-than-the-recent-past news, writing:

Today’s unemployment report was good news. But in a real sense good news is bad news, because this month’s not-too-bad number deflates the sense of urgency....The fact remains that realistic projections show unemployment staying disastrously high for many years....[The Federal Reserve's forecast shows] [u]nemployment above 8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011; above 7 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012....And what are we going to do about it? The de facto consensus is, not much — that we can’t and/or shouldn’t take any significant further action...It’s a tragedy, wrapped in a weird complacency.

I understand his concern, but I'm a lot happier with almost stable employment than with continued losses in six figures.


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