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January 07, 2011

December 2010 Unemployment Report: A Big "Meh"

December's unemployment rate was released this morning by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. U-3 unemployment dropped from 9.8% last month to 9.4% this month. The U-6 number dropped from 17% to 16.7%. Only 103,000 jobs were added, however, which indicates that the drop in unemployment was more due to people leaving the labor force than getting jobs. [This job number is based on a survey of industry, rather than actual payrolls, like ADP's job number (+297K). The truth this month is likely to lie somewhere between those two numbers.]

Here's the updated version of The Chart, always available in t-shirt form (and a variety of other products) from S. Weasel (all proceeds go to support her indolent expat lifestyle):*


It's actually following Geithner's prediction from last Spring pretty closely (the green dots). It's just unfortunate for Geithner that having the Treasury Secretary tell us,"Yup, that's how bad it's going to suck, and I have no plan to fix it," should have earned him a tarring and feathering.

The Good:

  • The number of unemployed people dropped by 556K, though a lot of those people left the labor force and may come back.

  • The number of those employed part-time for economic reasons dropped a bit over the last couple of months. Previously the U-3 unemployment rate had been artificially suppressed by increasing numbers of part-timers.

  • Manufacturing added 10K jobs, rather than losing jobs again

  • Government shrank by 10K jobs, but that actually meant that local governments dropped 20K jobs and the federal government added 10K jobs. Thanks, Mr. President!

The Bad:

  • The labor participation rate has dropped to its lowest percentage since 1983, falling from 64.5% last month to 64.3% this month. That likely indicates a large pent-up labor supply that is not included in the U-6 unemployment numbers.

  • The number of long-term unemployed is at its highest value ever, increasing from 6.33 million to 6.44 million.

Summary. B- report with weak job growth and continued hemorrhaging of the labor force.

*The BLS changed the rates for the past year today as part of its annual tweaking of its seasonal adjustments, but since it only changed 3 of the months by 0.1%, I'm not going back and nudging the old dots into their new spots.

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posted by Geoff at 10:42 AM

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