Explaining Southern California's economy

January jobs report: Even better than December

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.

That sound you heard emanating from Washington this morning might just be the great lurching creak of the U.S. economy finally turning the corner. While we were all transfixed by Facebook's IPO filing, the number crunchers at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) discovered that in January, the U.S. economy added 243,000 jobs — a very significant improvement over the really quite good December number of 200,000. This was enough to shave another 0.2 pecent off the unemployment rate, bringing it down to 8.3 percent from December's 8.5 percent.

Oh, and about the December numbers: They were even better than initially reported. The BLS revised them, as it does for the previous month with each new month, to 203,000 from 200,000. Is it right to get excited about 3,000 new jobs? Given how intractable the unemployment crisis has been, you'd have to say "Heck yeah!"

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December 2011 jobs report: It could be big

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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Unemployed father of two, Michael Lopez waits for work outside a temporary labor office in the Southern Californian town of El Centro, a town of 50,000 people where 30.4 percent of the work-age population are without employment, on October 28, 2010.

I can't call this anything other that pure intuition, but I think tomorrow's December 2011 jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is going to be very, very surprising. It's going to show many more jobs added and potentially knock another tenth of the percentage point off the national unemployment number, currently at 8.6 percent.

I could be completely wrong of course. We could end up with just north of 100,000 jobs adding in December, closer to the economic consensus and well below the 350,00-per-month figure we need to see the unemployment crisis begin to resolve.

I'm going on feeling, but the rest to the world can look to the ADP report, which provides a preview of the official BLS data. It hasn't been terribly reliable of late. And as the Wall Street Journal points out, its average December miss since 2006 has been...122,000 jobs. 

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November Jobs Report: Not as bad as the California weather

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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Unemployed father of two, Michael Lopez waits for work outside a temporary labor office in the Southern Californian town of El Centro, a town of 50,000 people where 30.4 percent of the work-age population are without employment, on October 28, 2010.

As many of you know, our California weather took a zany and destructive turn on Wednesday, with 60-80 mph Santa Ana winds whipping down from the desert and decimating the urban treescape of places like Pasadena. It was the worst wind anyone had seen in years. 

The BLS jobs report, on the other hand, didn't look too terrible for November. The country added 120,000 jobs last month, which was a lot lower than than the 206,000 the ADP report predicted earlier this week. But still, better than the revised October number of 100,000 (up from 80,000). 

The unemployment rate dropped from 9 percent to 8.6 percent, a surprising downward trend (subject to revision, of course) that could bode well for something like a 7-percent unemployment next November. In other words, good news for President Obama's re-election chances, even though the White House isn't predicting 6-percent unemployment rate until 2017.

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Employment data: Tomorrow is jobs day

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Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Unemployed people search for jobs in an employment office in the southern Californian town of El Centro.

Just a heads-up: the Bureau of Labor Statistics will release preliminary employment numbers for October tomorrow morning. Typically, observers look to the ADP report for advance insight into what BLS might report. This is from the Wall Street Journal:

Hiring by private-sector employers remained modest last month. The ADP National Employment Report showed employers added 110,000 jobs in October, down slightly from the revised 116,000 jobs added in September.

For the past few months, the data has been kind of heavily doubted and debated before the BLS official stats emerge. The concern has been that expectations will be gravely disappointed. 100,000 new jobs added will suddenly become...zero!

However, the anxiety seems to have moderated. Initial jobless claims are starting to look like they're falling off, preparing move below 400,000 for a sustained period as GDP growth picks up. The upshot is that the economy isn't getting worse, but it isn't really poised to blast off, either.

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September jobs report: Cause for optimism?

Military Career Fair Held At Washington Convention Center

Alex Wong/Getty Images

Jobs are not easy to come by in this economy, but at least a second recession now seems unlikely.

The BLS released the preliminary September employment numbers this morning. Unlike last month, when the economy added an adjusted 57,000 private-sector jobs, this month the economy managed 103,000. 

This was a lot better than some forecasters had predicted (the revised August numbers, +57,000 versus the Big Zee-Roh, were also welcome). Before today, I had seen September numbers ranging from zero to 130,000. The ADP report, a much-watched measure that comes out before the government total, anticipated 91,000 — the same number it anticipated last month — so the fact that we came in well above that is a cautiously positive sign.

The BLS report should quash speculation that we are heading for a double-dip recession, or that we're in some kind of quasi-recession right now. Felix Salmon doesn't think so — he's making more of a long-term malaise argument — but if we can avoid some kind of debt cataclysm in the Eurozone, then we may be able to turn the ocean liner at this point.

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