An Encouraging Jobs Report

This morning’s jobs report was encouraging not only in its headline figures, but also in its details:

  • Payrolls fell by 11,000 in November, the smallest decline since the recession began.
  • The unemployment rate declined to 10.0%, down from 10.2% in October.
  • Jobs losses in September and October were smaller than previously reported (by a combined 159,000).
  • Average weekly hours increased from 33.0 to 33.2.
  • Temporary help services, often viewed as leading indicator, added more than 52,000 jobs.
  • The underemployment rate (U-6) dropped from 17.5% to 17.2%.

In short, almost all the key measures moved in the right direction in November (the one disappointing figure was average hourly earnings, which increased only a penny in November).

It’s possible that some of these figures were helped by seasonal factors (last November was so bad that the seasonal adjustment process might give a little extra boost to this November’s figures). But the breadth of better news–including the revisions and the hours–gives me some confidence that these data do reflect real improvements in the labor market.

Still, we shouldn’t get too excited. We need the economy to add jobs–preferably 100s of thousands–each month if we are ever going to get unemployment down, so losing 11,000 is still bad news in an absolute sense. But today’s report is a step in the right direction.