Unemployment Drops to 7.7%

A slow and steady decline in the unemployment rate seems to be underway, despite the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. Last month, CBS Money Watch reported that the unemployment dropped to 7.8%, the first time it had fallen below 8% since February 2009.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that it dropped again to 7.7% for November.

On Oct. 5, the US Labor Department said "total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 114,000 in September, lowering unemployment 0.3 percentage points, from 8.1 percent in August. That brought the number of unemployed Americans down by 456,000 last month, to 12.1 million." -Money Watch

Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post

The November jobs report was pleasantly surprising to those who expected ugly numbers as a result from the Northeast reeling from Sandy. Unemployment is, in fact, trending the way it was expected to without a severe storm affecting it: The BLS said total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 146,000 in November. Employment increased in retail trade, professional and business services and health care. The biggest category in job gains was retail, which added 53,000 positions.

Neil Irwin wrote in the Washington Post, "Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisers, said in a statement that 'while more work remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression.'"

In their "Frequently Asked Questions" page, The BLS says that "unusually severe weather is more likely to have an impact on average weekly hours than on employment," which may be part of the reason unemployment figures did not surge after Sandy.

Money Watch also reported that in order to keep up with the number of people entering the workforce, the economy needs to create between 90,000 and 125,000 jobs per month. With the 114,000 jobs created in October and the 146,000 created in November, it appears the U.S. really has begun to heal from one of its greatest recessions.


Thumbnail photo credit: Michael S. Williamson / The Washington Post

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