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December 08, 2006
Another Good Employment Report -- And Why Some Will Argue It Might Not Mean Much
First the basics, from BusinessWeek.com:
U.S. nonfarm payrolls rose 132,000 in November, beating the forecast for a 110,000 gain. October's payrolls were revised down to 79,000 from 92,000, but September's 148,000 level was revised up to 203,000, for an overall net upward revision of 42,000.
The details have a familiar ring, with construction and manufacturing employment continuing to take it on the chin, and broad-based gains elsewhere -- even in retail:
So what's not to like? Only the hunch that it might not last. From the Wall Street Journal (subscription required):
The labor market remained quite tight in November. However, labor market tightness is at best a coincident indicator and more generally a lagging indicator of economic strength, so changes in joblessness will not drive Fed policy.... -- Steven A. Wood, Insight Economics
Indeed, today's report on consumer confidence from the University of Michigan suggested that, though folks may be thinking things are OK at the moment, the perception out there is that the future might not be so bright. From Reuters:
U.S. consumer sentiment ebbed in December as consumers pared back their view of their future financial conditions, raising concerns on the outlook for spending...
The survey's index of current conditions rose to 108.2 in December from 106.0 in November, while consumer expectations dipped to 78.6 from 83.2 in November.
There has been a lot of talk lately about the similarities between 2000 and today, the idea being that this year's housing bust is eerily reminiscent of yesteryear's stock market crumble. Those comparisons are fair enough, but it is useful to remember that by end of year 2000 weakness in the labor market was already manifest:
I'd say we're still ahead of the game.
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