Jobs report: 9.8 percent unemployment, other disappointments

Mitchell Hartman Dec 3, 2010

By Mitchell Hartman

This morning’s November jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is mediocre. And that’s probably being charitable, when you consider how far the labor market’s fallen and how much ground there is to make up now that the economy’s in so-called “recovery.”

There are the obvious headline numbers — a 0.2 percent rise in unemployment to 9.8 percent, the highest level since April. Just 39,000 jobs added in November — when economists figured, based on other recent reports, there would be 150,000 to 200,000 additional jobs.

Buried in the report are some other big disappointments: government employment down by 11,000; manufacturing and construction down by nearly 20,000; hours worked and wages earned going nowhere. Retailers like department stores actually cut jobs, but they’re expected to add workers before the holidays.

The higher unemployment rate in November goes hand in hand with another development: over the past year, the number of discouraged workers has increased significantly. These people have more or less given up looking because the chances of finding a job are so slim. If and when they hit the pavement again and actively look for work, either out of financial desperation or because they hear of other people finally landing jobs, they’ll push the unemployment rate up again. They could also drive wages down in a competitive race to the bottom among the unemployed.

Among the only bright spots in November’s report were health care and temporary work, as both had healthy increases in employment. Temp jobs have been rising all year. The problem is employers are apparently not converting them into permanent full-time jobs as they usually do in a typical recession-recovery cycle.

But it seems nothing’s typical anymore.

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