Jared Keller at The Atlantic:
The national unemployment rate dropped from 9.8% to 9.4% in December, its lowest level in nearly nine months. The Labor Department reported that the economy added 103,000 jobs, while the agency also revised estimates from the two earlier months, reporting that 210,000 jobs were created in October instead of 172,000, and 71,000 in November, instead of 39,000.
Ross Kaminsky at The American Spectator:
Interestingly, the unemployment rate dropped for adult men and for whites, but not substantially for adult women (already doing far better than adult men, at 8.1 percent unemployment versus 9.4 percent for men), teenagers (an astounding 25.4 percent), blacks (15.8 percent), and Hispanics (13 percent).
According to BLS, “Employment rose in leisure and hospitality and in health care but changed little in other major industries. Since December 2009, total payroll employment has increased by 1.1 million, or an average of 94,000 per month.” There was a small gain in retail employment after a surprise loss in November. The goods-producing sector was essentially unchanged in December, down 2,000 jobs after being down 5,000 jobs in November. There were small gains in mining and manufacturing, offset by losses in construction, including civil engineering and residential building
For much of 2010, this was important because of the sharp differences we’ve seen between the private and public sectors. Most notably, the rise and fall of Census Bureau jobs can offer a skewed picture — some months, such as May 2010, look better than they should, because the monthly total is exaggerated by hundreds of thousands of Census jobs. Other months, such as June 2010, are distorted in the other direction, looking worse than they should.
But that period is just about over. In December, while the public sector lost 10,000 jobs, the private sector added 113,000 jobs, the 12th consecutive month of private-sector growth, which is nice, but not as nice as more robust job creation. The totals for both October and November, however, were revised upwards and appeared more at least slightly more encouraging.
It’s impossible to say we’re even anywhere close to recovery in the jobs market until the number of new jobs created, net of jobs eliminated, is at the 150,000 per month level and above. And that rate is going to have to be sustained for many, many, many months before the long impact of the Great Recession is really behind us.
So, yea, this is good news, but let’s not fool ourselves here. The jury is still out when it comes to jobs.
Update: Over at his own place, Dave Schuler is puzzled about the new jobs numbers:
Riddle me this. How can the U-3 unemployment rate fall sharply, the U-6 unemployment rate fall sharply, the number of long-term unemployed remain essentially the same and the economy only create 100K jobs? Inquiring minds want to know.
Indeed, and this was one of the first questions that went through my mind when I saw the figures this morning. It’s actually the second month in a row that we’ve had an odd jobs report. Back in December, the November jobs report initially came in with only 39,000 jobs created. That number was revised today to a net job creation of 71,000, nearly double the amount first reported. It leads one to wonder if there isn’t something odd going on at the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There’s no doubt that the headline payrolls number is a disappointment. The economy just doesn’t seem to be creating jobs: we need to see 150,000 new jobs a month just to keep pace with population growth. But is there some good news, at least, on the unemployment front?
I’m not sure. While unemployment is down from both December 2009 and December 2010, it’s down only for those who have been out of work for less than 26 weeks. The ranks of the long-term unemployed are still rising
So, Team Obama gets a good headline today, probably borrowed against subsequent reports in which job creation will improve (we hope!) but the unemployment rate will stall or even rise (as discouraged workers find hope and look for change in their status).
The fine folks at the Hamilton Project sent me this (frankly terrifying) graph showing how long it would take to reverse our job losses at various rates of payroll growth. Note that every line on here is showing vastly more job growth than we’ve seen for any sustained period thus far in the downturn: