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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Unemployment falls to 8.5 percent on good December jobs report

A jobs sign hangs above the entrance to

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images

The Bureau of Labor Statistics released its December 2011 employment report this morning. The economy added 200,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent from 8.6 percent.

This wasn't the blockbuster 325,000 jobs-added number that the ADP report predicted yesterday. But it was much higher than the 125-150,000-ish consensus among various economists. 

On the (slight) downside, the November jobs total was revised down to 100,000 from 120,000. That meant that the earlier 8.6 unemployment rate had to be revised to 8.7 for the period. Still, it's 8.5 now. 

The big question is whether this momentum can be sustained — whether the jobless rate will keep edging down or inch back up. But it does start off 2012 on a positive note. So far, the markets have responded tepidly, suggesting that an improving employment situation is "priced in" — already accounted for — and that traders are more worried about Europe and its ongoing currency crisis than they are about jobs in the U.S.

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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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Stuckflation continues: 80,000 new jobs in October does not a recovery make

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Unemployment in America grinds on as job seekers confront a weak recovery.

The BLS released October employment numbers this morning, and the numbers were disappointing. We were looking for around 100,000 new jobs, but we got only 80,000. The pattern for the past few months has been for a low number to be revised up. August, for example, came in at zero (yes, zero) but was later revised up, as was September.

So that's the silver lining. Taking revised data into account, we added about 100,000 more jobs than the BLS originally thought at the end of the summer and into the early fall. 

Altogether, this was enough to shave 0.1 percent off the unemployment level: we went from 9.1 to 9.0 (Hooray, U.S. economy!). Obviously, this is a dismal pace of improvement, unlikely to do much at all to bring the economy back to "full" employment of around 4 percent anytime soon. 

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