The Atlanta Fed's macroblog provides commentary and analysis on economic topics including monetary policy, macroeconomic developments, inflation, labor economics, and financial issues.

Authors for macroblog are Dave Altig, John Robertson, and other Atlanta Fed economists and researchers.

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December 11, 2009

Better news on the jobs front: Layoffs down, temp hiring up

November's employment report released last week provided significantly better-than-expected numbers on the jobs front. Payroll counts declined by 11,000 last month—the smallest decline in two years—and job losses in September and October were revised down a considerable 160,000. The declining number of job cuts is showing up in some other data, too.

First-time claims for unemployment insurance have shown a clear downward trend since last spring (though there was an unexpected increase during the first week of December). Claims have fallen by 200,000 since peaking in March, dipping by roughly 25,000 in the weeks following the payroll survey alone.


While the trend is better, fewer layoffs do not necessarily translate to job creation. On average, the jobless had remained unemployed for a record 28.5 weeks in November. Tuesday's Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) reported another record low hiring rate in October and a continued decline in the number of job openings.

However, even in today's weak labor market there are signs that some hiring is going on, even if it is temporary. The American Staffing Association's (ASA) staffing index has temporary hiring trending up since July 2009. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics payroll survey showed the temporary help sector started posting gains a month later, adding a net 117,000 jobs in the four months through November.


In the coming weeks, the ASA index will shed more light on the evolution of temp demand ahead of the December payroll report. Temporary employment is typically regarded as a leading labor market indicator—the intuition being that firms tend to hire temps or increase the hours of current employees before committing to permanent workers. The combination of fewer layoffs and more hiring provides some welcome news—but within the context of two years of job losses.

By Laurel Graefe and Menbere Shiferaw, both Atlanta Fed senior economic research analysts

December 11, 2009 in Labor Markets | Permalink


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It's hard to see how the economy can recover with the government doing its best to make it as inefficient as possible. How does repaving roads over and over again with money earned by real people doing real jobs help? Coming soon - higher taxes, higher interest rates. Hard to see how that is going to stimulate anything.

Posted by: John smith | December 11, 2009 at 08:46 PM

this is a good development. I am closely watching how long the hourly work week is. I have also unsubstantiated anecdotes that tell me China is not what it seems. They are producing, but the production is going into a warehouse. No demand for products.

I don't think we are building a foundation yet.

Posted by: jeff | December 12, 2009 at 11:44 AM

rIgHt, the seasonal downswing occurs two months earlier in 2010. Sell gold.

Posted by: flow5 | December 13, 2009 at 01:47 PM

flow, Gold does look juicy. But, the dollar isn't going to strengthen anytime soon.

Buy Gold on dips. Too much money will chase commodities next year via ETF's and managed funds.

Posted by: Jeff | December 14, 2009 at 06:41 PM

A lot of the data from September to November appears to be skewed better than the normal seasonal pattern as a result of the the sudden fall-off in the economy last fall and winter. The total level of employment appears to have roughly stabilized since January when the majority of layoffs went into effect. The growth in the labor force is continuing to add to unemployment.

Posted by: Les | December 16, 2009 at 01:41 PM

I still don't see it out in CA.. But most all the folks back home in GA have found work.

I wonder going forward how useful mass numbers from who nation are because certain areas are not at all like others. Like Austin TX vs Dayton OH..

Posted by: FormerSSResident | December 17, 2009 at 06:52 PM

Seasonal adjustments using 2008 continue to skew the data wildly. This week's IUC came out 109,000 below the raw number of claims. The next two months may be even more skewed considering that the NSA nonfarm employment fell by 3.6 million in one month from December 2008.

Posted by: Les | December 24, 2009 at 10:40 AM

Have you looked at the American Staffing Association index that compares hiring trends for the past four years? The 'trend' this blog entry highlights is purely seasonal.


Posted by: Les | December 24, 2009 at 01:00 PM

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