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Dec 6 2013   4:06PM GMT

November Employment Figures Produce Some Modest but Pleasant Surprises

Ed Tittel Ed Tittel Profile: Ed Tittel

It’s the first Friday of the month and with it comes another opus from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, reciting the employment situation for the previous month. Even as more workers entered — or returned to — the workplace, unemployment still managed its biggest drop in quite some time, from 7.3 percent in October to 7.0 percent in November. With 203,000 new jobs added in November as well, and modest upward revisions to employment numbers for September (+12,000) that offset small downward revisions for October (-4,000; net gain: 8,000 over both months), the news was pretty positive overall. In fact, because the average forecast for new jobs in November was around 180,000 and the actuals came in at 23,000 over that mark (12.8 percent better), we see something of a “hat trick” in this latest report: a dip in overall unemployment, upward revision to recent reports, and better-than-expected numbers in the most recent employment figures.

What does this latest set of figures tell us? We’re clearly still in slow growth mode, because at least an additional 100,000 new jobs per month are needed to start whittling away more effectively at overall unemployment. But it looks like some modest acceleration in job growth may finally be underway. Perhaps it’s just the usual effect of hiring for the holiday buying season, and the foot will leave the pedal early next year. But for the moment, at least, it looks like the pace has picked up just a tad.


Overall unemployment is down nicely for the information sector, but no noticeable job growth there as yet.

Table A-14 shows some trickle down into the Information sector, too. Whereas the sector reports fewer unemployed persons in November 2012 version the same month this year:187,000 in 11/12 versus 176,000 in 11/13, the respective unemployment percentages tilt more strongly: 6.8 percent for 2012 versus 6.4 percent in 2013. Why is this an interesting shift? Because these figures mean that total information employment in 2012 was 2.75 million, and exactly the same in 2013 (2.75 million again). Though unemployment has dropped, the Information sector still hasn’t added to its overall job count.

Methinks this may be forced to change soon, because 6.4 percent unemployment is getting closer to the typical 5-6 percent range that represents full employment for most sectors of the US economy. As the counts edge close to that threshold, I’d expect to see the sector finally start adding new jobs overall, at long, long last.

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