Richard DeKaser: December's employment numbers

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TEXT OF INTERVIEW

JEREMY HOBSON: Now to the job picture. The payroll processor ADP says private employers added almost 300,000 jobs in December. That's three times what economists were expecting. Also, this morning the job placement company Challenger Gray and Christmas said companies laid off fewer people last year than any year since 1997.

CEO John Challenger spoke to Marketplace earlier this morning.

JOHN CHALLENGER: That was a very strong number. In fact the month for December -- just 32,000 job cuts -- was the lowest monthly job cut total of the year. We saw jobless claims fall below 400,000 for the first time last month so all and all the economy seems poised for a better 2011.

A better 2011 -- let's get some analysis from Richard DeKaser, he's chief economist at the Parthenon Group and he's with us live from Boston. Good morning Richard.

RICHARD DEKASER: Good morning.

HOBSON: So first of all, what do you think of these two jobs reports this morning, especially as we wait for Friday's official employment report from the Labor Department?

DEKASER: I think you're previous commentator go it right. Things are looking up, but we need to take some of these numbers a little bit more carefully. First of all this is the pregame show as you mention yourself. The government numbers that we'll see on Friday -- that's what everyone cares about but these are so important that we're talking about them because they are good leading indicators. Now, October saw a huge increase -- 172,000 jobs. People were ebullient. Then November saw a modest increase of 39,000 -- people were in despair. Each of those numbers probably exaggerates reality. First to the upside, then to the downside. The truth is somewhere in between I think. And that's why I just want to caution against taking any single monthly number too accurately. Now this number we just got from the folks at ADP implies about a 300,000 job gain in the month of December. If we get anywhere close to that it'll be great. But even if we do, there might be some special factors, specifically, November saw declining retail employment which is very unusual. It might have had to do with the late Thanksgiving holiday and the start to the retail season, so let's just take it with a grain of salt. I think it's good overall, but temperate none-the-less.

HOBSON: Richard DeKaser, economist at the Parthenon group, thanks so much.

DEKASER: My pleasure.

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