NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- The Labor Department reported the economy created 204,000 jobs in October after adding 163,000 jobs the prior month. This is much better than was expected but still well below what is needed to bring unemployment down to acceptable levels.
The jobless rate rose a tick to 7.3%, further indicating the challenges ahead owing largely to recalibration of population statistics.
The government shutdown negatively affected employment but the impact was not large. Federal employment was down on 12,000 in October after falling 5,000 in September. Some contraction was to be expected owing to continuing effects of sequestration.
Subpar economic growth remains the much larger problem.Preliminary estimates indicate the economy expanded at 2.8% in the third quarter, up from 2.5% in the second. However, consumer and business demand weakened, and much of the growth was inventory build and a slowing of imports, and those are likely to reverse in the fourth quarter. Topping out of auto and home sales, along with the large litigation settlements paid by Wall Street's larger banks, will subtract from growth too, and preliminary estimates for the fourth quarter are closer to 2%. ObamaCare mandates for employer paid health insurance coverage, anticipated for 2015, are already encouraging more part-time hiring. Along with the visceral anti-business campaigns waged by unions, such as those targeting McDonald's (MCD) and Wal-Mart (WMT), these trends are creating a broad part-time economy in hospitality, retailing and other sectors where wages are subpar and job security nonexistent. The jobs count may be up but for recent college graduates and older adults the situation is grim, and many working age adults have abandoned job searches. Adding in part-timers who want full-time employment and discouraged adults who have abandoned searching for jobs, the unemployment rate becomes 13.8%. Even with more full time positions, the pace of jobs creation is well short of what is needed. About 360,000 jobs would lower unemployment to 6%, but that would require GDP growth in the range of 4 to 5%. Over the last four years, the pace has been a paltry 2.3%.