Job Growth Lower Than Expected; Unemployment Rate Falls as 315k Give Up Search for Work

From the Associated Press:

The U.S. unemployment rate fell last month to its lowest level in more than two and a half years, as employers stepped up hiring in response to the slowly improving economy.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate dropped sharply to 8.6 percent last month, down from 9 percent in October. The rate hasn’t been that low since March 2009, during the depths of the recession.

Still, 13.3 million Americans remain unemployed. And a key reason the unemployment rate fell so much was because roughly 315,000 people had given up looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.

Employers added 120,000 jobs last month. And the previous two months were revised up to show that 72,000 more jobs added–the fourth straight month the government revised prior months higher.

Private employers added a net gain of 140,000 jobs last month. Governments, meanwhile, shed another 20,000 jobs, mostly at the local and state level. Governments at all levels have shed almost a half-million jobs in the past year.

More than half the jobs added were by retailers, restaurants and bars, a sign that holiday hiring has kicked in. Retailers added 50,000 jobs, the sector’s biggest gain since April. Restaurants and bars hired 33,000 new workers. The health care industry added 17,000.

The presidential election is less than a year away, which means President Barack Obama will almost certainly face voters with the highest unemployment rate of any president since World War II.

And Europe’s financial crisis threatens to slow U.S. growth next year. A recession in Europe could reduce U.S. exports, hurt global financial markets and dampen business confidence.

Read more here. Its a bit odd that if someone out of work gives up looking for a job they are no longer considered ‘unemployed.’ There are some legitimate reasons for this, but it is still a bit of a quirk which suggests some caution in evaluating the unemployment rate.

.