Economy Watch: Job Growth, Delinquent Mortgages

The U.S. economy created jobs in November well above the average monthly gain for the past 12 months. Fewer U.S. mortgages were delinquent in October month over month.

The U.S. economy created 321,000 jobs in November, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics on Friday, which is well above the average monthly gain for the past 12 months of 224,000. Job gains were widespread, led by growth in professional and business services, retail trade, healthcare, and manufacturing, the BLS noted.

Also, recent months were stronger than previously estimated. The change in total employment for September was revised from a gain of 256,000 to one of 271,000, and the change for October was revised from a gain of 214,000 to one of 243,000. With these revisions, employment gains during those months combined were 44,000 more than previously reported.

The official U.S. unemployment rate, which is based on a separate BLS survey, stayed at 5.8 percent in November, the same as in October, presumably indicating an influx of job-seekers into the labor market. Before October, the last time the headline rate was so low was in July 2008. During the mid-2000s, the rate hovered between 4 percent and 5 percent.

Ahead of the monthly jobs report, the U.S. Department of Labor reported on Thursday that for the week ending Nov. 29, initial unemployment claims were 297,000, a decrease of 17,000 from the previous week. The four-week moving average was 299,000, a decrease of 4,750 from the previous week.

Delinquent Mortgages Continue Dropping

Black Knight Financial Services reported in its latest Mortgage Monitor on Thursday that 5.44 percent of U.S. mortgages were delinquent in October, down from 5.67 percent in September (delinquent meaning more than 30 days overdue, but not in foreclosure yet). Also, 1.69 percent of mortgages were in the foreclosure process, down from 2.54 percent a year earlier. Thus in October, a total of 7.13 percent were either delinquent or in foreclosure.

The company also reported that there’s been a sustained improvement in negative equity over the past two and a half years. In January 2012, more than a third of borrowers — 33.5 percent – were underwater; less than 8 percent are now. Only 1.2 percent of U.S. mortgages have current CLTVs of 150 percent or higher, down from 9.5 percent in January 2012.  Among the severely underwater – those suffering 150 percent or higher CLTVs – more than a three-quarters of borrowers (77 percent) are delinquent.

Ahead of the jobs numbers, Wall Street had a modest down day on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average off 12.52 points, or 0.07 percent. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq were down 0.12 percent and 0.11 percent, respectively.