Economy Watch: Weak November Employment Numbers Come as a Shock

The net increase in employment was so poor, in fact, that the official unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent from November. Economists had expected at least about 100,000 more jobs to be created.

December 6, 2010
By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

Courtesy Flickr Creative Commons user Banalities

Recent days have economists (and plenty of others) scratching their heads. Retail sales, up. Auto sales up too. Incomes, rising. Factories, busy. Even pending homes sales were up.

New jobs: up, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. But only by 39,000 in November, which is pretty much a rounding error when it comes to the entire labor market. The net increase in employment was so weak, in fact, that the official unemployment rate edged up to 9.8 percent from November. Economists had expected at least about 100,000 more jobs to be created.

The economy seems to be be humming along in most every other way, so what gives? Interested observers seem to be breaking into two camps. One notion is that sorry, folks, this is going to be a jobless recovery–look for employers to squeeze their current employees even harder. A more optimistic breed posits that November is a nasty fluke, and might even be revised into something better when the Labor Department re-crunches the numbers later this month.

Commission Votes on Deficit-Deduction Plan (a.k.a the “Big Banana”)

In the end, 11 members of the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform indicated that they approved of the radical deficit-cutting plan developed by co-chairs Erskine Bowles, a Democrat and former member of the Clinton administration, and Alan Simpson, a Republican and former Senator from Wyoming, on Friday. Seven members declined to do so.

Still, that was more support than generally expected for the plan. Technically, 14 members need to say “aye” for the plan to be passed along to Congress, but of course Congress can do what it wants with the plan, now that it exists and has a modicum of bipartisan support, at least on the panel.

“We took a big banana and threw it into the gorilla cage,” Simpson said, employing an odd but memorable metaphor, “[and] the gorilla has picked it up like they do, peeled it, mashed it, and played with it, and they will eat some. Pieces will be digested and nourish this country.” It isn’t quite clear whether that gorilla is supposed to be Congress or the deficit, or what exactly the gorilla does after he digests something.

Google to Buy a Piece of Manhattan

CNBC reported on Friday, citing anonymous “real estate executives” that Google Inc. has put a “substantial deposit” down on the 2.9 million-square-foot 111 Eighth Ave. in Manhattan, a behemoth of an office property that covers an entire block bounded by 15th and 16th streets. Presumably Google wants a piece of the action in New York before the office market recovers completely, though it has never been as bad there as in a lot of other places during the recession.

Google already has about 1,800 employees in the building, which serves as the search engine’s East Coast headquarters. A number of other high-profile tenants call the big brick building home as well, such as Lifetime Entertainment, Nike USA and the on-line branch of Barnes and Noble. Deep-pocketed, rent-paying tenants all.

Wall Street spent most of Dec. 3 pouting about the jobs numbers, but managed to eke out some gains by the end of the day. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 19.68 points, or 0.17 percent, while the S&P 500 gained 0.26 percent and the Nasdaq advanced 0.47 percent.