Unemployment rate drops to 8.6% (updated)

Rick Moran
It's a mixed bag of news despite the .04% drop from October. The good news is that the economy has added jobs for 4 straight months. Broader surveys suggest that this is likely to continue. Fewer people are discouraged about finding work this month. And upward revisions for October and September added 72,000 more jobs to the mix.

The bad news is that manufacturing is shrinking, most of the added jobs are in low paying retail firms, Europe debt could still reverse the whole thing, and we still aren't adding enough jobs to offset those coming into the workforce.

Reuters:

The report is unlikely to take much pressure off President Barack Obama, whose economic stewardship will face the judgment of voters next November. The outlook for the U.S. economy is also being threatened by Europe's deepening financial crisis.

The report could temper the appetite among some Federal Reserve officials to ease monetary policy further.

In forecasts released earlier this month, the Fed said the jobless rate would likely average 9 percent to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter. It did not expect it to drop to an 8.5 percent to 8.7 percent range until late next year.

Data ranging from manufacturing to retail sales suggest the growth pace could top 3 percent in the fourth quarter, in contrast to China, where growth is cooling and the euro zone, which many economists believe is already in recession.

While the economy's growth pace appears to have accelerated from the third quarter's 2 percent annual rate, unemployment remains too high.

At the same time, U.S. fiscal policy is set to tighten in the new year, even if lawmakers extend a payroll tax cut.

If you're one of the long term unemployed, this month's report is pretty good news. If Europe can seriously address their debt problems - or, more likely, successfully kick the can down the road another few months -- it will give the US economy a chance to gain some steam.

The 3% growth that some economists are predicting for the 4th quarter may be a tad optimistic from what I've been reading elsewhere, but anything would be an improvement over the last few quarters.

Update, Steve McCann writes:

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released their November jobs report. The only headline the media will trumpet will be the unemployment rate dropping to 8.6%. However the BLS has arbitrarily dropped 315,000 from the civilian labor force in October claiming they simply ceased looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. (How they come up with this number is a mystery) If this had not been done the unemployment rate would have been 9.1%.

Further in 1994 the BLS, under the prodding of the Clinton administration, changed its method of calculating unemployment. The change: those considered discouraged or marginally attached to the labor force are no longer counted. In November that number stood at 2.6 million. If the unemployment rate were still calculated as it was prior to 1964 the unemployment rate would be 10.2%.

The BLS has lost a major amount of credibility as it has become a tool of the politicians to make them look good and try and fool the American people.

Update, Yossi Gestetner adds:

Comparing the Unemployment Rate to March 2009 is inaccurate. Here is why:

The UR counts the percent people of within a Labor Force who don't have a job. So if your Labor Force (those within your overall population holding a or at least looking for a job) consists of 100 million people, and 95 million have jobs, then your UR is 5%.

Simple. Right?

Ok. What happens if your economy is so bad that people just give up and dropped out of the labor force? Meaning, what happens if your Labor Force consists of only 99 million people, yet 95 million still have jobs? Your UR goes down to approximately 4% because 95 million people out of 99 million holding a job is a bigger percent employed than if your Labor Force is at 100 million, which means the percent Unemployed is lower.

Indeed, this is not bumper sticker material. But not too complicated either.

This is where we stand now compared to March 2009: While the population in America grew since then and more people should have moved into the Labor Force looking for work, many people instead dropped out since then due to the economy being so bad. In actual numbers (and certainly compared to the population size of now versus March 2009), less people are in the work force than in March 2009. As a result, the Unemployment Rate is now at 8.6% instead of above 10% where it would have been if our Labor Force (in actual numbers and certainly compared to the population change) would have been now the same as in March in 2009.

It's a mixed bag of news despite the .04% drop from October. The good news is that the economy has added jobs for 4 straight months. Broader surveys suggest that this is likely to continue. Fewer people are discouraged about finding work this month. And upward revisions for October and September added 72,000 more jobs to the mix.

The bad news is that manufacturing is shrinking, most of the added jobs are in low paying retail firms, Europe debt could still reverse the whole thing, and we still aren't adding enough jobs to offset those coming into the workforce.

Reuters:

The report is unlikely to take much pressure off President Barack Obama, whose economic stewardship will face the judgment of voters next November. The outlook for the U.S. economy is also being threatened by Europe's deepening financial crisis.

The report could temper the appetite among some Federal Reserve officials to ease monetary policy further.

In forecasts released earlier this month, the Fed said the jobless rate would likely average 9 percent to 9.1 percent in the fourth quarter. It did not expect it to drop to an 8.5 percent to 8.7 percent range until late next year.

Data ranging from manufacturing to retail sales suggest the growth pace could top 3 percent in the fourth quarter, in contrast to China, where growth is cooling and the euro zone, which many economists believe is already in recession.

While the economy's growth pace appears to have accelerated from the third quarter's 2 percent annual rate, unemployment remains too high.

At the same time, U.S. fiscal policy is set to tighten in the new year, even if lawmakers extend a payroll tax cut.

If you're one of the long term unemployed, this month's report is pretty good news. If Europe can seriously address their debt problems - or, more likely, successfully kick the can down the road another few months -- it will give the US economy a chance to gain some steam.

The 3% growth that some economists are predicting for the 4th quarter may be a tad optimistic from what I've been reading elsewhere, but anything would be an improvement over the last few quarters.

Update, Steve McCann writes:

 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released their November jobs report. The only headline the media will trumpet will be the unemployment rate dropping to 8.6%. However the BLS has arbitrarily dropped 315,000 from the civilian labor force in October claiming they simply ceased looking for work and dropped out of the labor force. (How they come up with this number is a mystery) If this had not been done the unemployment rate would have been 9.1%.

Further in 1994 the BLS, under the prodding of the Clinton administration, changed its method of calculating unemployment. The change: those considered discouraged or marginally attached to the labor force are no longer counted. In November that number stood at 2.6 million. If the unemployment rate were still calculated as it was prior to 1964 the unemployment rate would be 10.2%.

The BLS has lost a major amount of credibility as it has become a tool of the politicians to make them look good and try and fool the American people.

Update, Yossi Gestetner adds:

Comparing the Unemployment Rate to March 2009 is inaccurate. Here is why:

The UR counts the percent people of within a Labor Force who don't have a job. So if your Labor Force (those within your overall population holding a or at least looking for a job) consists of 100 million people, and 95 million have jobs, then your UR is 5%.

Simple. Right?

Ok. What happens if your economy is so bad that people just give up and dropped out of the labor force? Meaning, what happens if your Labor Force consists of only 99 million people, yet 95 million still have jobs? Your UR goes down to approximately 4% because 95 million people out of 99 million holding a job is a bigger percent employed than if your Labor Force is at 100 million, which means the percent Unemployed is lower.

Indeed, this is not bumper sticker material. But not too complicated either.

This is where we stand now compared to March 2009: While the population in America grew since then and more people should have moved into the Labor Force looking for work, many people instead dropped out since then due to the economy being so bad. In actual numbers (and certainly compared to the population size of now versus March 2009), less people are in the work force than in March 2009. As a result, the Unemployment Rate is now at 8.6% instead of above 10% where it would have been if our Labor Force (in actual numbers and certainly compared to the population change) would have been now the same as in March in 2009.