Explaining Southern California's economy

December jobs report: Did the U.S. economy add more than 200,000?

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC.

I don't have quite as much time as usual to look forward to the December jobs report the federal Labor Department will issue bright and early Friday at 5:30 a.m. West Coast time.

But I can run through what I think the number will be. 

For the record, in November the U.S. added 146,000 new jobs, while the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent.

On Thursday, ADP, a private payrolls processor, reported that the U.S. added 215,000 jobs in November. A consensus of economists Bloomberg surveyed expects 155,000 new jobs and anticipates that the unemployment will rise slightly, to 7.8 percent (probably because optimism about employment will bring people back to the job hunt, raising the labor participation rate, now at lows not seen since the early 1980s).

The economy itself is a mixed bag. Retail sales, for big players like Target and Barnes & Noble, were weak during the holiday season (although the jury is still out on whether the entire season was a major disappointment). But the U.S. economy expanded at a stronger pace in the third quarter than previously thought, suggesting that a very sluggish recovery from the Great Recession could be gaining steam.

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November jobs: How much will Sandy affect the big number?

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC. The November jobs report will be released Friday morning and may affected by superstorm Sandy.

The federal Labor Department will release its jobs report for November bright and early Friday morning. As usual, I'll be on the dawn patrol to scrutinize the numbers. Last month, the much-watched and heavily parsed report showed the domestic economy adding 171,000 jobs in October.

That was better than expected. The labor participation rate ticked up modestly as more people began looking for work — which was enough to push the headline unemployment rate up to 7.9 percent from 7.8 percent on September.

Importantly, August and September saw their jobs totals revised up, indicating an economy performing better than previously thought.

The trend suggests that we could see a good November report, particularly as the government recently revised its estimates of U.S. economic growth in the third quarter to 2.7 percent from 2 percent.

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US adds 171,000 jobs in October as unemployment rate rises to 7.9 percent

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Unemployed southern Californians line up to enter a job fair in El Monte.

The Labor Department has just released its October jobs report — the last report before next Tuesday's election. During the month, the U.S. added 171,000 new jobs. That improvement in the hiring picture, something that's been developing over the last three reports, was enough to nudge the headline unemployment rate up to 7.9 percent from 7.8.

As I argued Thursday in my jobs report preview, I thought we'd get a better-than-expected October. The ADP report, a private estimate that comes out before the government numbers, said October had been a plus-158,000 month. The Bloomberg consensus was more conservative, at plus-125,000. I was looking at revision to previous months — August and July were both revised up in the September report, and in today's October report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said that in August, the U.S.  actually got close to 200,000 new jobs (192,000), and when August was first reported, that number was 92,000.

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October jobs preview: Friday is the last unemployment report before the election

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to the US Chamber of Commerce building in Washington, DC. The October national payrolls report hits on Friday — that last report from the Labor Department before the election.

The Labor Department will release its October jobs report at 5:30 a.m. ET Friday morning, making good on its promise to not allow Superstorm Sandy to prevent Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) economists from delivering the last batch of national employment data before next Tuesday's election.

In September, job growth was weak, with only 115,000 new jobs added. But the unemployment rate — the headline number that most people who aren't economists pay attention to — fell in eye-catching fashion, to 7.8 from 8.1 percent. This set off a frenzy of conspiracy-oriented speculation that the books had somehow been cooked.

We probably don't have something similar in store for us with Friday's numbers. The ADP employment report — from a national payrolls processor — came out today and said 158,000 jobs were added in October, many at large businesses (81,000), but also quite a few at small businesses (50,000).

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September jobs report: US unemployment rate falls to 7.8 percent

Job-Seekers-Getty

STAN HONDA/AFP/Getty Images

The U.S. unemployment rate fell substantially in September.

The most important number in the U.S. economy was released by the Labor Department. The unemployment rate fell to 7.8 percent from 8.1 percent as the country added 115,000 new jobs in September. It's the second-to-last jobs report we're going to get before the election. The October report will hit the Friday before Americans go to the polls.

Apart from the notable drop in the headline rate — it has not been below 8 percent in four years — the number of jobs added for the month was about what economists expected. What's interesting — and encouraging — is that the previous two months saw job growth revised up. July went to 181,000 from 141,000, and August to 142,000 from 96,000. 

That's 87,000 new jobs, over two fairly weak months, that the Bureau of Labor Statistics just discovered. Mind you, these sub-200,000 numbers do not put the country on pace for even a break-even recovery. We're in a holding pattern. And to see the headline number fall faster, we need to add 300,000-400,000 new jobs each month.

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