November Job Report Beats Expectations Despite Fiscal Cliff Uncertainty

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In the month of November, the United States Department of Labor reported that the U.S. economy added 146,000 jobs, pulling the unemployment rate down to 7.7 percent, its lowest level since December 2008.

Friday’s results were far better than the 86,000 jobs that economists had estimated the Labor Department would report for the month, and economists had predicted that the rate of unemployment would remain flat at 7.9 percent. The figures were also higher than the private payroll processor ADP’s estimate of 118,000.

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Many experts, including ADP, had anticipated that the effects of Superstorm Sandy, which made landfall on the Northeast coast in late October, would have affected this month’s results. But this was not the case. As the Acting Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor Statistics said in a statement, “Our analysis leads us to conclude that Hurricane Sandy did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates for November.”

However, November’s job growth was below the average of 170,000 new jobs added in each of the last three months.

“The labor market is very much in the recovery stage,” said Ethan Harris, co-head of global economics at Bank of America Merrill Lynch, to The New York Times. Yet, “It’s a long way from full health with workers having little negotiating power when it comes to raises,” he added. As the report showed, average hourly earnings only rose 4 cents in November to $23.63.

In terms of particular industries, the retail sector added the most jobs with 53,000. Professional and business services added 43,000 jobs, healthcare added 20,000, and wholesale trade employment added 13,000. Comparatively, employment in the manufacturing sector declined by 8,000 jobs.

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