Job Picture Improves

Unemployment dips to 10%

The troubled labor market saw a dramatic improvement in November as the number of jobs lost narrowed to 11,000 and the unemployment rate dipped to 10%, the Labor Department said on Dec. 4.

The report showed the goods-producing sectors lost 69,000 jobs including 41,000 in manufacturing and 27,000 in construction.

But services -- which represents the largest number of jobs -- saw growth of 58,000 jobs. Within services, retail trade lost 15,000 jobs but professional and business services added a hefty 86,000 while education and health services saw an increase of 40,000.

"This is another signpost that the recession is over, even if a vigorous recovery is not yet assured," said Avery Shenfeld, economist at CIBC World Markets. "We're still quite a way from the 150,000 jobs a month and above to consistently bring the unemployment rate down. But I think we will start to see some positive net hiring in the first quarter and that will serve as a buttress against a drop back into recession."

The Labor Department revised its data from the prior two months to show fewer job losses than earlier estimated -- 111,000 losses in October instead of 190,000 and 139,000 in September instead of 219,000.

Weekly hours worked, sometimes seen as a proxy for economic activity, increased by 0.6%, while average hourly earnings rose 0.1%.

Sophia Koropeckyj at Moody's Economy.com said the increase in hours worked is "a good cyclical indicator."

"It is expected that employers will first extend hours before taking on new workers. This is a good first step," she said.

Offsetting some of the positive figures, the report showed the labor force fell by 98,000 with so-called discouraged workers stopping their search for work, a factor that lowers the unemployment rate.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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