Labor market surprisingly resilient after Sandy

Friday's payroll report isn't as bad as expected, but isn't all that good either.

By Jonathan Berr Dec 7, 2012 10:53AM

Man holding hardhat, Tetra Images, Getty ImagesUpdated 12:30 p.m. ET


The economic impact of Superstorm Sandy might not be as bad as some experts had expected, but the economy still is struggling. The Labor Department reported Friday that U.S. private sector employers added 146,000 jobs in November, far more than economists had expected. That caused unemployment to fall to 7.7%, its lowest level since December 2008.  

 

Wall Street was pleased with the report and pushed stocks up in midday trading. Investors, though, shouldn't confuse a less-bad-than-expected jobs report with a good jobs report. Indeed, the number of unemployed persons was little changed at 12 million. Also, the BLS revised down jobs figures in both September and October by 49,000 jobs, although revisions to jobs figures are common.
 
Economists had expected a gain of 85,000 jobs following a revised lower gain of 138,000 in October, according to Bloomberg News. The upside surprise seems to have come from Sandy, which devastated much of the Northeast coastline, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics "did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November." 

The payroll number was below the 151,000 average gain seen for the year and the 153,000-per-month average seen in 2011. According to the BLS, the average work week was unchanged at 34.4 hours. Average hourly earnings rose to $23.59. The unemployment rates among adult men, women, teenagers, whites and Hispanics held steady. Retail trade, professional and business services, and health care posted job gains.  

There are some signs of hope for U.S. jobs: Apple (AAPL) CEO Tim Cook surprised investors Thursday by saying that the company planned to build some Mac computers in the U.S. The U.S. job market, though, continues to face challenges.  

 

But Wall Street continues to retrench. Citigroup (C) Thursday announced plans to lay off 11,000 workers and many analysts expect more to come. Also worrisome -- unemployment will spike if Congress fails to avoid the fiscal cliff.   


Fiscal cliff worries appear to be weighing on consumers. A well regarded measure of consumer confidence took a fall in early December to a four-month low. The Thomson Reuters/University of Michigan's consumer mood reading plummeted to 74.5 in early December from 82.7 a month earlier.

Even if that calamity is dodged, the best that Americans can expect is slow and steady progress in the jobs market. It may "win the race," but it's a pretty frustrating slog for those looking for work. 


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108Comments
Dec 7, 2012 2:39PM
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The unemployment figures are so false, that one wonders about the liberal media and how corrupt they are! More and more people have given up looking! They are the forgotten people that the President and the Democrats in particular want to brush under the rug as insignificant.  You can not have such a small percentage of the total US population working and have numbers such as quoted and only an idiot would believe the numbers. I am glad more jobs have been created but I personally was forced on early SS because there are no jobs!
Dec 7, 2012 2:36PM
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An all time low because alot of unemployment benifits have run out and regular workers have been forced to take seasonal jobs, lets see what Feb and March looks like.
Dec 7, 2012 12:23PM
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The unemployment rate drops to 7.7 ONLY because a record number of us are apparently no longer looking for a job. Is it REALLY that or is it TERRORISM by established businesses stopping the Middle Class Recovery so that a Two Class AMERICA can prevail?

WHAT THE F IS OUR GOVERNMENT DOING ABOUT IT? THE WAR ON TERRORISM HAS BEEN RIGHT HERE ON AMERICAN SOIL FOR YEARS NOW. GET OFF YOUR LAURELS AND LOBBIES AND MAKE A DIFFERENCE OR FIND AN EXIT AND KEEP GOING. 

Dec 7, 2012 12:20PM
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Everyone paying attention to the fact that only the Blue Chips and Banks are holding their stock prices. These would be the agents that will see America reduced to a Slavery Class and another full of False Elitists. NONE are Founders, ALL are FLOUNDERS who couldn't start an enterprise if their lives depended on it. TIME TO CONDEMN NEW WORLD ORDER and regain FREEDOM. The wealth in America should be restoring us, not destroying us.
Dec 7, 2012 12:17PM
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The whole nation needs to know that a group of Republicans in Michigan put together an entire anti-Union Right to Work Act in a few hours yesterday-- and passed it. The Act guarantees that the state will steadily separate into the Hired-In Management on Top and the workforce below making slavery wages. The Act has NO OTHER value. It's been MONTHS since this Fiscal Cliff BS made news as America's Congress vacationed for HALF A YEAR and still has no progress. If you THINK things are okay in America, here... have some more KOOL AID. If not, take a look at what you have and ask yourself if it is more valuable than your FREEDOM.

I CONDEMN Michigan's government. NONE will be re-elected and NONE of this lowlife garbage New World Order legislation will survive your terms. You are the SCUM OF THE EARTH.

Dec 7, 2012 12:08PM
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350,000 people dropped out of the workforce last month, which is why the UE rate dropped significantly.  Now if only we can convince another 1.5 million people to give up looking for work, we'll be below 7% UE - woohoo!  Wait, maybe we can get there by putting a bunch of people on welfare/food stamps/disability - sound familiar?  The labor participation rate remains below 64% for the 11th straight month.

For every one entitlement recipient, we have 1.57 people working in the private sector.  If you throw gov employees into the mix, we only have 1.25 people working in the private sector for every 1 person who is directly depending on the gov for their income, either via a paycheck or a hand-out.  This ratio is only getting worse and is unsustainable.

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