Tea Leaf: Jobs outlook is a mixed bag — gaining, but weakly

Published: Tuesday, Nov. 8 2011 2:00 p.m. MST

Meanwhile, the nation's manufacturing sector has been flat during the past three months. The nation's mining & logging sector has added 152,000 net new jobs since a low point in October 2009.

The nation's private service providing sector registered the addition of 114,000 net new jobs in October, led by a gain of 32,000 jobs in professional & business services. The "p & bs" sector has added an estimated 562,000 jobs during the past 12 months. The education & health services sector added 28,000 net new jobs during October, with 12,000 of those in health care employment. The health care sector has added 313,000 jobs during the past 12 months.

Leisure & hospitality employment rose by 22,000 in October, with an estimated gain of 344,000 jobs since a low point in January 2010. Retail trade added 18,000 jobs last month, with a gain of 156,000 jobs during the past 12 months. According to the BLS, employment in other major sectors including wholesale trade, transportation & warehousing, information, and financial activities changed little during October.

And then there is government. Total government employment declined by an estimated 24,000 jobs in October, with most of the decline in the non-educational component of state government. Total sector employment is down 288,000 jobs so far this year. Employment in both state government and local government has been trending down for the past three years as budget pressures have been intense.

More details

The average hourly wage for all employees on private nonfarm payrolls rose by five cents (up 0.2 percent) to $23.19 in October. The rise of 1.8 percent during the past 12 months pales versus the 3.9 percent rise in consumer prices over roughly the same time period.

The "underemployment rate" … that which includes the unemployed, those working part-time who would prefer to work full-time, and those discouraged workers who are not seeking a job but would accept one if offered to them … declined to 16.2 percent versus 16.5 percent the prior month

From here?

Modest U.S. economic growth with modest job gains appears the most likely scenario at this point. However, developments across Europe could blow that forecast out of the water.

Whether or not the Congressional "super committee" of six Democrats and six Republicans accomplishes anything of value also remains to be seen. Their report on how to slow government spending by $1.2 trillion over 10 years is due no later than Nov. 23. I would suggest that an announcement of a major plan to trim deficits by at least $3.5 trillion over 10 years could be worth 300-500 points on the upside for the Dow average. Conversely, an announcement that polarizing politics remains the status quo, with no agreement at all, could cost the Dow average a similar amount.

Jeff Thredgold is the chief economist for Zions Bank and founder of Thredgold Economic Associates, a professional speaking and economic consulting firm. Visit www.thredgold.com.

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