What to make of job growth?The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced that U.S. employment grew by 146,000 jobs in November. That's a solid if not spectacular number, but disappointing in the context of previous reports, which showed 148,000 new jobs in September and 171,000 in October. What's worse is that those prior figures were revised downward significantly -- September's from 148,000 to 132,000 and October's from 171,000 to 138,000. That's a total of 49,000 fewer new jobs than previously thought. Subtract those downward revisions from November's figure, and the latest report actually represented an increase in overall employment of less than 100,000 new jobs. To put this in context, here is a scorecard you can use to evaluate the strength of these monthly employment reports in the current economy:
- Negative job growth = slipping towards recession
- Less than 100,000 new jobs = anemic growth
- Between 100,000 and 200,000 = mildly encouraging
- Between 200,000 and 300,000 = a clear step in the right direction
- Over 300,000 new jobs = an economy running full steam ahead
One other oddity about the recent report was that it reported no material impact from Hurricane Sandy. Given the number of businesses that have been closed by the storm's damage, this may seem difficult to believe. However, the muted impact might be explained by the fact that people who miss some time, but not the entire pay period, due to workplace disruptions are still considered employed. It will be interesting to view the regional and state employment figures, due to be released December 21, for more insights on how the storm may have impacted employment.For now, November's employment numbers may not look bad on the surface, but they suggest a loss of the momentum the economy had appeared to be gathering. This suddenly makes the economic outlook for 2013 a little less encouraging.