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Fiscal Cliff Smothers Market, Not Jobs Report

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Even the monthly jobs report can't muzzle fiscal-cliff chatter.

Hours after the Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed on Friday that nonfarm payrolls added 146,000 jobs in November, the markets were mixed, thanks in part to House Speaker John Boehner's ability to yank investors back to post-election politics.

"There's about a 15-minute attention span to [the employment situation], and then it's back to fiscal cliff talks and we're focused on that," said Brad Sorensen, market and sector research director at Charles Schwab. "The dip to 7.7% was a little bit surprising, but we never want to ... put too much weight on any one number and it fits in with the trend."

Whether it was the better-than-expected payroll number or that the labor participation ticked down again, economists and analysts have dug through the data without much to sway them in either direction on the markets.

The major U.S. equity indices jumped at the opening on Friday, but quickly reversed direction and then moved in separate directions -- the Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed, the S&P 500 inched slightly higher off the flatline and the Nasdaq decreased.

Throughout most of 2012, the monthly employment situation gripped investors, politicos and citizens who were looking for any signal of improvement in the U.S. economy and what it may mean for the outcome of the presidential election.

Americans grew accustomed to Mitt Romney's doom-and-gloom statements and President Barack Obama's "it-takes-time" commentary.

Little discussion circled the so-called fiscal cliff -- when tax relief measures and deep spending cuts will automatically go into effect -- but some investors were more concerned about it than the election outcome.

Now that voters have selected Obama to a second term, they want Congress and the President to solve the country's fiscal woes, according to a Gallup poll.

The drop in labor participation rates caught the attention of many economists and analysts.

The BLS reported that the civilian work force declined by 0.2 percentage points to 63.6%, which offset the increase of the same amount in October.

"That's the part of it that is not good news," said David Weiman, an economist at Barnard College in New York City. "Overall I say we got the growth in employment numbers, and that's important, but on the other hand you can't discount the fact that we still don't have robust enough growth that's bringing people from the unemployment rolls into employment and is also taking those folks that are sitting on the sidelines."
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