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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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.
Here's a quick primer on the difference between "Keynesians," who want to spend money to get the economy going, and "austerians" (a little play of words of "Austrians," an anti-Keynesian school of economics), who insist that we need to cut back, belt-tighten, and stop racking up debt. In the video, Henry Blodget of Business Insider sits down with Niall Ferguson, a Harvard professor and historian who hasn't just taken up a strongly anti-Keynesian stance since the financial crisis but has also argued that America's about to go down the imperial drain, and fast.
Ferguson's performance is masterful in its bet-hedging. For example, he wants to find a ceiling for U.S. borrowing — but the debate we had earlier this year about...the ceiling for U.S. borrowing displeased him.
Anyway, you get the idea. He's not in agreement with New York Times columnist and Nobel-winning economist Paul Krugman. Krugman and Ferguson have actually knocked heads at the same event, with Ferguson repeating his argument that markers for U.S. debt are OK "until they aren't," maintaining that the big risk for the USA is a loss of investor confidence. Krugman, for his part, insists that the multi-billion post-financial-crisis stimulus bill wasn't big enough.
The Occupy Oakland protesters set a fire on trash to make a barricade as the police officers form a line to disperse the protesters on November 3, 2011 in Oakland, California. AFP Photo/ Kimihiro Hoshino (Photo credit should read KIMIHIRO HOSHINO/AFP/Getty Images)
At MarketWatch, Jon Friedman thinks so — and looks no farther than his ink-stained brethren for blame:
The media, serving as a proxy for the general population, are impatient and bored by what outwardly seems like a marked lack of progress.
No less an authority on American social movements than folk singer Joan Baez, a notable dissident during the eras of the Vietnam and nuclear protests, said: “I’ll be convinced when it develops a real direction. ... So far it’s hard to tell.”
The only time someone gets excited about the protests these days is when some external force intervenes, such as when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg attempted (unsuccessfully) to clear the park, purportedly to clean it.
Bummer. Althought those involved with the Occupy Oakland wing of the movement might disagree, as protestors there clashed with police over an effort to shut down the city's port.
This has been provoking much discussion today. It's a Brookings Institution report on the "re-emergence" of concentrated poverty in America. In the video, Alan Berube lays it out in brief and makes one very interesting — and alarming — marco point: In the cities of the Midwest, "the recession that started at the beginning of the decade never really ended."
The coasts have fared better. However, Berube also observes that concentrated poverty isn't just an urban phenonomeon any longer; it's moved into the suburbs. We've seen this in California. The UCLA Anderson Forecast that came out earlier this year indicated that the state is separating into two distinct regions or zones: the coast, where unemployment is moderating and growth is resuming; and the inland areas, where economic stagnation is setting in.