According to the Labor Department, 146,000 jobs were created in
November and the U.S. unemployment rate fell from 7.9 to 7.7
percent. While the number of jobs added exceeded the consensus
economist estimate of 86,000, the decline in unemployment was
largely triggered by a decreased participation rate rather than the
growth of employment. The participation rate fell 0.2 percent with
the number of discouraged workers growing by 166,000.
While job growth is still modest, there are indications that the
quality of those jobs is improving. The number of people working
part time for economic reasons fell by 168,000, presumably as those
people began working full time.
The decline in the participation rate dampens the positive news
of a falling unemployment rate, yet the report doesn’t show any
signs of the employment market sliding back. Almost across the
board, most industries saw some growth and very few saw declines.
Where there were declines, like construction (-20,000) and food
manufacturing (-12,300), there is reason to suspect they were
affected more by fallout from Hurricane Sandy, which devastated
much of the East Coast in late October, rather than economic
While there was a decline in the participation rate on the whole
in the U.S., among those with a bachelor’s degree, the
participation rate in November actually increased by 0.2 percent as
119,000 such workers found employment during the month. Because of
the rise in participation, the unemployment rate of those with a
bachelor’s degree, 3.8 percent, was unchanged in November but was
down from 4.4 percent a year ago. The participation rate fell by
0.6 percent for those with less than four years of college, and 0.7
percent for those with no college, but a high school degree.
The management, professional and related occupations
unemployment rate is currently down to 3.6 percent from 4.2 percent
a year earlier. The sales and office occupations unemployment rate
is down from 8.2 percent a year ago to 7.2 percent in November.
The holidays tend to muddle unemployment statistics with high
retail hiring and would-be job seekers easily discouraged from job
hunting during the holiday season. But with strong headwinds-both
literally and figuratively-November’s employment seemed to hold its
own. Yet, while we have grown used to seeing strong year-end
numbers, labor market observers will be holding their breath going
into January to see if the rate of employment gains can continue,
or even grow during the first quarter of 2013.