Unemployment Today: The White House Reacts

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Good news–at least temporarily–from the Department of Labor today. (Maybe the job summit did work some magic!) Council of Economic Advisers Chair Christina Romer blogs the details (and spin) over at the White House website:

Today’s employment report was the most hopeful sign yet that the stabilization of financial markets and the recovery in economic growth may be leading to improvements in the labor market. Payroll employment declined 11,000 in November.  This is a dramatic improvement from the decline of 597,000 in November 2008 and 741,000 in January 2009.  It is by far the closest we have been to stable employment since the recession began almost two years ago.  Furthermore, the employment loss in both September and October was revised down substantially, with the result that employment as of October is nearly 160,000 higher than was reported last month.  As was true in October, the largest employment gains in November were in temporary help services, which is often a leading indicator of labor demand.  21,000 jobs were also added in state and local public education.  Both the work week and aggregate hours increased, another early sign of labor market healing. The unemployment rate, which had risen to 10.2% in October, declined to 10.0% in November.

On Tuesday, President Obama has scheduled a speech at the Brookings Institution in which he will lay out his plan for more legislation to create jobs–just don’t call it another “stimulus.” During a morning gaggle in his office, Press Secretary Robert Gibbs suggested that the President was amenable to proposals to use either unspent or repaid money from the TARP program to fund the next un-stimulus. “It’s certainly being looked at,” said Gibbs.

Meanwhile, economist Dean Baker burrows into the change in the unemployment rate–which slid back to 10 percent from 10.2–and cautions that it does not mean much.

The drop in the unemployment rate was almost certainly attributable primarily to measurement error. The 10.2 percent figure for October, a jump of 0.4 percentage points from September, exaggerated the true unemployment rate, so the change in November was simply a correction of this sampling error. The employment rate (EPOP) remained unchanged at 58.5 percent.

Baker summarizes:

On the whole, this report is much better news than what we have seen since the decline accelerated last September. Still, there is no evidence in this report of anything resembling a robust recovery. It is likely that the economy will continue to shed jobs for at least another month or two and it may be several more months before job growth is fast enough to keep the unemployment rate from rising. And there are many risks that could make this picture less pleasant.