Loading...

The Labor Department has just issued some good news on the economy, especially for those unfortunately out of work. Specifically, the Government released data showing that the nation had added 203,000 jobs in November.

That was better than the consensus forecast of 180,000. It also was a bit better than the downwardly revised 200,000 payroll increase estimated for October, initially projected at 204,000.

Also of note, in a separately conducted survey, Labor affirmed that the nation had pared the unemployment rate from 7.3% during October to 7.0% last month. Expectations had been for a lesser decline to 7.2%. This was, encouragingly, the lowest jobless rate since November 2008, when the nation was still battling a long and debilitating recession.

At the same time, September's payroll increase was revised higher from 163,000 to 175,000. The solid October-to-November payroll gain, if sustained, would be sufficient, albeit likely barely, we think, to continue to lower the jobless rate. The jobs report, therefore, would seem to strengthen the case for the Fed to become a bit less accommodative. However, the central bank has blinked before, and we are not at all certain that it will use the occasion of its December 17th and 18th FOMC meeting to actually take such a step. We place the odds at 50%, or less, of such action.

Meanwhile, looking at other aspects of the report, we find that average hours worked per week increased from 34.4 to 34.5, which was expected. Also, manufacturing hours worked rose from 40.9 to 41.0 in November. Further, hourly earnings increased, going from $24.11 to $24.15. As to the sectors contributing to the latest month's growth in jobs, we find that nice gains were recorded in construction, manufacturing, and transportation.

Taken as a whole, this was a solid report, but it may not have been the strong growth needed to induce the Fed to act, at this time. We think there is a reasonable chance that the bank will want to see additional data before moving ahead with its oft-stated plans to eventually slow down the rate of bond buying. We shall see in less than two weeks.

Finally, in other news released at that time, the Commerce Department reported that personal income had dipped by 0.1% in October, the most recent month for which such metrics are available, following a strong 0.5% gain in September. Personal consumption expenditures, however, increased by 0.3% in October, modestly surpassing the 0.2% rise the month before. Such mixed data do not augur especially well for Christmas shopping, although we still sense that this year's presumptive gain in such outlays will be decent, but not exceptional.

At the time of this article's writing, the author did not have positions in any of the companies mentioned.