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Economy in Brief

U.S. Payroll Increase Is Disappointing While Jobless Rate Increases
by Tom Moeller   December 03, 2010

Recent labor market improvement backpedaled last month. Nonfarm payrolls rose just 39,000 after an upwardly revised 172,000 October increase. The rise disappointed Consensus forecasts for a 142,000 gain. Also disappointing was the rise in the unemployment rate to 9.8%, its highest since April. Accompanying the weak headline figures were sequential, discouraging details. The breadth of gain in payrolls fell to just 52% of industries, the lowest of the current expansion. Average hourly earnings were unchanged m/m and the annual gain of 2.1% matched its weakest since 2004. 

Within the establishment survey, indications of weaker hiring were broad-based. The weakest was the slight 65,000 worker increase in private service sector hiring. The gain was the smallest since June. It reflected broadly weaker increases across industries as well as monthly declines in finance (-1.2% y/y) and retail trade (+0.4% y/y). Showing the disinterest in hiring full-timers, temporary help jobs rose by 39,500 (19.2% y/y). Continuing to the downside were factory and construction sector payrolls, though the rates of decline have slowed significantly from their worst. In the public sector, payrolls fell 11,000 led by a decline (-1.8% y/y) in local gov't jobs which continue to fall with lower tax revenues. Federal gov't employment rose just 2,000 (0.1% y/y) as the government continues to face large budget deficits. 

Accompanying the weak payroll figures was the rise to 9.8% in the unemployment rate, as calculated in the household survey. A 9.6% rate had been expected. The increase reflected a 173,000 drop (+0.4% y/y) in employment following a 330,000 October decline. Moreover, a 103,000 increase (0.2%) in the labor force failed to recoup October's drop. The more comprehensive unemployment rate, which includes marginally attached workers and those who work part time but would prefer a full-time job, remained at 17.0%.

The household survey also showed that those unemployed were jobless for a near-record 33.8 weeks, on average. Forty-two percent of individuals have been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer, down just slightly from the May high. That resulted in a 2.2% rise in the number of individuals not in the labor force, with those "not looking because of discouragement over job prospects" up by nearly one-half y/y. Overall, the civilian participation rate of 64.5% was its lowest since 1984.

The figures referenced above are available in Haver's USECON database. Additional detail can be found in the LABOR and in the EMPL databases.

How Do Sudden Large Losses In Wealth Affect Labor Force Participation? from the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago can be found here.

Employment: 000s Nov. Oct. Sept. Y/Y 2009 2008 2007
Payroll Employment 39 172 -24 0.6% -4.3% -0.6% 1.1%
     Previous -- 151 -41 -- -- -- --
  Manufacturing -13 -11 -6 0.8% -11.3% -3.4% -2.0%
  Construction -5 3 -11 -2.0% -15.7% -6.1% -0.8%
  Private Service Producing 65 157 122 1.1% -3.4% -0.2% 1.7%
  Government -11 12 -136 -1.1% 0.2% 1.3% 1.1%
Average Weekly Hours 34.3 34.3 34.2 33.9
(Nov.'09)
33.1 33.6 33.8
Average Hourly Earnings 0.0% 0.4% 0.1% 2.1% 3.0% 3.8% 4.0%
Unemployment Rate (%) 9.8 9.6 9.6 10.0 (Nov.'09) 9.3 5.8 4.6
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