Five Glimmers of Hope in Today's Jobs Report: The Ticker

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By Paula Dwyer

By now you've heard that October's jobs report shows employers created a less-than-forecast 80,000 new jobs, and that the jobless rate ticked down ever so slightly to 9 percent from 9.1 percent.

The recovery remains painfully slow -- it takes 150,000 new jobs a month to bring unemployment down about half a percentage point over a year. Companies aren't hiring largely because of lackluster consumer demand, but concerns over Europe's debt crisis and the looming deadline for U.S. budget talks may also be a damper.

So you may be heartened to learn that the October report contained snippets of good news. Five, in fact.

1. Manufacturing payrolls increased by 5,000, the first increase in three months. In 2010 and earlier this year, jobs related to manufacturing exports were a bright spot in an otherwise dismal employment picture. With South Korea, Colombia and Panama trade deals just inked, could the sector be bouncing back?

2. Average hourly earnings rose 0.2 percent to $23.19. Here's hoping beleaguered wage-earners see more of that.

3. September and August payroll figures were revised way up, by a total of 102,000 jobs. Those numbers are closer to the bigger hiring gains seen in a separate survey of households, which showed a 277,000 increase in October. Today's figures may also be revised up.

4. The underemployment rate -- part-time workers who'd prefer a full-time job and people who gave up the hunt -- fell to 16.2 percent from 16.5 percent.

5. The number of newly unemployed workers declined markedly to about 5 million, down from 5.5 million. This category counts people who just lost a job, retirees re-entering the workforce, graduated students and the like.

The October report also contains data that could point to continued sluggishness. The average number of hours worked didn't change, and state and local governments continued to lay off workers. The number of long-term unemployed (those pounding the pavement for 27 weeks or longer), which dipped to 42.4 percent of all jobless from 44.6 percent, could be a sign that some unemployed have exhausted their benefits, rather than that they've found work. 

Still, I prefer the glass-half-full picture. Call me Pollyanna, but together the positive data points may indicate that the U.S. has avoided a double-dip recession and that the recovery is back on track.

(Paula Dwyer is a member of the Bloomberg View editorial board.)

-0- Nov/04/2011 20:26 GMT