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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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: Another lackluster month?

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 September jobs report due our tomorrow could improve on August, but not by much.

The Labor Department will release it September jobs report bright and early Friday morning, and as usual I'll be on the dawn patrol to consider the numbers. Last month's payroll report was disappointing; the economy added only 96,000 new jobs in August.

September could be better. The ADP report that comes out ahead of the official U.S. government release said the economy added 162,000 new jobs in the month. But a consensus from economists surveyed by Bloomberg expects only 113,000.

With growth as weak as it is in the U.S., another sub-200,000 Labor Department report shouldn't be surprising. If we want to add 200,000 jobs per month — the pace at the beginning of the year — we need GDP growth of 2 percent. In the second quarter of this year, however, we only saw GDP growth at 1.3 percent. That's just not good enough to enable this sluggish recovery to pick up speed.

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July jobs report: Another sluggish month?

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. Will July's government jobs report signal a turnaround in the sluggish labor market?

The Labor Department will release its jobs report for July at 8:30 a.m. tomorrow. I'll be on dawn patrol in L.A. to report the news as it breaks, but that doesn't mean we can't take a stab at trying to figure out how the U.S. economy did job-wise last month.

For background, in the first quarter of the year, we added on average about 200,000 new jobs each month. In the second quarter, that dropped to less then 100,000. We need something on the order of 300-400,000 to get the roughly 13 million people who are currently unemployed in America back to work. The 200,000 we were getting per month in the first quarter enabled us to keep pace with new workers coming into the labor force. The 100,000 per month since means stagnation — or, as I've called it, "stuckflation," with the economy growing modestly and the unemployment rate remaining at around 8.2 percent.

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