A Puzzling Jobs Report

A blog about business and economics.
Dec. 7 2012 9:54 AM

A Puzzling Jobs Report

There were overwhelming expectations that Hurricane Sandy and other factors were going to lead to a dismal November jobs report but that didn't happen. Instead, the BLS reported an employment increase of 146,000 in November not stellar but certainly consistent with a continuing recovery. Sandy seems to have had an impact primarily in terms of pushing people into part-time work rather than having them register as jobless. But we really will have to wait and see how revisions and next month's data looks.

My pre-release plan was to say we should ignore the November initial report due to Sandy factors and instead focus on the revisions. The news in the revisions is disappointing but hardly terrible: "The change in total nonfarm payroll employment for September was revised from +148,000 to +132,000, and the change for October was revised from +171,000 to +138,000." These are the kind of employment increases that should keep the unemployment rate falling very slowly, and will make it extremely difficult for large classes of workers to see any pay increases. But I think it may be more-or-less the fastest kind of recovery that current Federal Reserve policy will let us have. A bit more inflation-tolerance might let growth proceed faster, or else a miraculous productivity surge might arrive, but I don't believe we should expect any acceleration.

Advertisement

That sounds a bit gloomy, but it's consistent with my preelection view that the winner is going to be very lucky. If the economy just keeps chugging along adding an average of 135,000 jobs per month then that'll mean almost 6.5 million new jobs over the course of Obama's second term.

A fascinating aspect of this jobs report is that the housing recovery is nowhere in sight. Rising new home starts are not being matched by any increase in construction employment. Something is probably being mis-estimated here, since I don't think the houses are being built by robots, but we'll have to see.

Matthew Yglesias is the executive editor of Vox and author of The Rent Is Too Damn High.

TODAY IN SLATE

The Juice

Ford’s Big Gamble

It’s completely transforming America’s best-selling vehicle.

Should the United States Grant Asylum to Victims of Domestic Violence?

The Apple Watch Will Make Everyone Around You Just a Little Worse Off

This Was the First Object Ever Designed

Don’t Expect Adrian Peterson to Go to Prison

In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 

Moneybox

How the Apple Watch Will Annoy Us

A glowing screen attached to someone else’s wrist is shinier than all but the blingiest jewels.

Music

A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now …

The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.

Is Everyone Going to Declare Independence if Scotland Does It? 

I Tried to Write an Honest Profile of One of Bollywood’s Biggest Stars. It Didn’t Go Well.

Trending News Channel
Sept. 12 2014 11:26 AM Identical Twins Aren’t Really Identical
  News & Politics
Jurisprudence
Sept. 14 2014 2:37 PM When Abuse Is Not Abuse Don’t expect Adrian Peterson to go to prison. In much of America, beating your kids is perfectly legal. 
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 12 2014 5:54 PM Olive Garden Has Been Committing a Culinary Crime Against Humanity
  Life
Inside Higher Ed
Sept. 13 2014 8:38 AM “You’re More Than Just a Number” Goucher College goes transcript-free in admissions.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 12 2014 4:05 PM Life as an NFL Wife: “He's the Star. Keep Him Happy.”
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 12 2014 5:55 PM “Do You Know What Porn Is?” Conversations with Dahlia Lithwick’s 11-year-old son.
  Arts
Music
Sept. 14 2014 11:44 PM A Little Bit Softer Now, a Little Bit Softer Now … The sad, gradual decline of the fade-out in popular music.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 12 2014 3:53 PM We Need to Pass Legislation on Artificial Intelligence Early and Often
  Health & Science
New Scientist
Sept. 14 2014 8:38 AM Scientific Misconduct Should Be a Crime It’s as bad as fraud or theft, only potentially more dangerous.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 12 2014 4:36 PM “There’s No Tolerance for That” Pete Carroll and Jim Harbaugh say they don’t abide domestic abuse. So why do the Seahawks and 49ers have a combined six players accused of violence against women?