Is this a case where the blame game involves authentic blame? The job growth figures for December are just, plain lousy — the worst for a December in three years? Could it have been the cold? (Expect Democrats to point to that) Or just a still unhealthy economy not progressing as well as the White House wanted — or promised (Republicans will say that)? No matter what, the numbers are just, plain lousy:
U.S. employers hired the fewest number of workers in almost three years in December, but the setback was likely to be temporary amid signs that unusually cold weather may have had an impact.
The surprisingly weak job growth figures reported by the Labor Department on Friday, however, complicated the picture for the Federal Reserve, which last month announced plans to scale back its massive monetary stimulus program.
Nonfarm payrolls rose only 74,000 in December, the smallest increase since January 2011 and well short of the 200,000 jobs or so that most economists had expected.
The unemployment rate fell 0.3 percentage point to 6.7 percent, its lowest level since October 2008, but the decline mostly reflected people leaving the labor force.
“If there ever there was a curveball, this was it,” said Marcus Bullus, trading director at MB Capital in London. “These limp numbers are as puzzling as they are surprising.”
U.S. stocks rose at the open, as investors appeared to discount the data as being distorted by weather, but later slumped into negative territory. Prices for U.S. Treasury debt rose and the dollar slid as some traders scaled back bets on how quickly the Fed might close the monetary spigots.
The step back in hiring is at odds with other employment indicators that have painted an upbeat picture of the jobs market. Tempering the blow, the government’s survey of employers found that 38,000 more jobs were added in November than previously reported.
The White House tackled the numbers
The White House is pointing to the nuance, saying much has been accomplished but much more needs to be done:
As our economy continues to make progress, there’s a lot more work to do. Though December’s job growth was less than expected, we continue to focus on the longer-term trend in the economy – 2.2 million private sector jobs added and a 1.2 percentage point decline in the unemployment rate over the course of 2013. Today’s numbers are also a reminder of the work that remains, especially on one of our nation’s most immediate and pressing challenges: long-term unemployment. Despite an abundance of evidence indicating that this challenge is far from solved, Congress allowed extended unemployment insurance to lapse at the end of 2013, cutting off a critical lifeline to those who lost a job through no fault of their own and are still searching for work. Several of the charts below—and the updated Council of Economic Advisers report available here—explain why today’s jobs numbers show that while we are making progress, extended unemployment insurance benefits remain necessary and should be the first order of business in 2014.
Could it have been the cold? Possibly. But, if so, it’s likely to have been one factor — not the factor. Suggesting something is not just rotten in the state of Denmark but in the state of our recovery.
SOME OTHER REACTION:
–Doug Mataconis has an extensive post with charts and concludes:
Read more at: The Moderate Voice