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Business & Economy

CHART: November job report: US adds 146,000 jobs, unemployment rate falls to 7.7 percent

A student registers at the Barnard College Career Fair in New York City. TKTKTK
A student registers at the Barnard College Career Fair in New York City. TKTKTK
John Moore/Getty Images

The U.S. added 146,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate fell to 7.7 percent from 7.9 percent, the Labor Department reported on Friday.

There was concern going into the November report that Superstorm Sandy would have an effect on the jobs situation and the ability of the government to accurately gauge employment for the month, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which complies the data, says that it didn't: "Our analysis suggests that Hurricane Sandy did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November."

Given that concern, the fact that the economy added 146,000 new jobs in November is good news. However, it's important to remember that coming out of a recession as severe as the financial crisis, and with 12 million Americans unemployed and 4.8 million defined a "long-term unemployed," we need to see 300-400,000 new jobs added each month to be in a truly robust recovery.

We're not seeing that because economic growth is weak right now. In the third quarter, the economy expended at a rate of 2.7 percent — far better than 2011's anemic 1.7 percent, but below the 5-6 percent GDP growth rate that would deliver the monthly jobs numbers that the country requires.

Some areas of concern in the November report: both October's and September's totals were revised downward, reversing a trend of the preceding month's data being revised upward. October was revised to 138,800 from 171,000; and September was revised to 132,000 from 138,000.

The labor participation rate — the number of people actively engaged with being in the workforce — ticked down slightly, after moving up slightly last month. The participation rate is at its lowest level since the early 1980s. As plenty of economists have pointed out, what's driving the headline unemployment rate down is people giving up on looking for work.

As far as actual sectors of the economy go, California is seeing both sides of the coin when it comes to adding and losing jobs. Computer programmers are in demand, and Hollywood added jobs in November. But construction shed jobs during the month. And so the uneven recovery, with subpar jobs growth, continues, but nationally and in the state.

For what it's worth, I underestimated the number for November, expecting something more like 100,000 new jobs added. However, if the trend of downward revision of previous months' data continues, I may be vindicated next month. And on that note...

We're going to begin tracking the monthly jobs numbers in a cool new data-driven way. KPCC's new data journalist, Chris Keller, and I collaborated on the chart below. And by "collaborated," I mean I  pointed Chris in the general direction of the numbers and he did all the actual work. The idea here is to see how the jobs report "changes" over time, as the economists at the Labor Department issue new data and revise the older data. Enjoy!

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter. And ask Matt questions at Quora.