Employment numbers jump nicely, probably thanks to the holiday shopping season

Businessman ascending

Today is the first Friday of the month, and the day that the Bureau of Labor Statistics most commonly issues its Employment Situation Summary for the preceding month. For November 2014, that report comes with some nice numbers. First and foremost, despite economists' forecasts that the U.S. economy would add somewhere around 225,000 jobs for November, the USBLS reported an uptick of 321,000 instead.


I'm guessing that this unexpectedly strong jump — which finally exceeds the magic 300,000 monthly number needed to truly whittle away at unemployment — stems to some extent from the typical upswing in part-time hiring this time of year. Businesses are racing to accommodate the hordes of shoppers out snarfing up presents for family and friends.


Despite this uptick, the overall unemployment number stayed locked at 5.8 percent for November, not deviating from the October number one whit. This is validated in the language of the report, which cites job growth in retail, as well as in professional and business services, health care, and manufacturing. All of these factors contributed to the added job growth for November on a sector-by-sector basis. Likewise labor force participation remains unchanged at 62.8 percent, as does the employment-population ratio at 59.2 percent.


Revisions to the two months preceding also showed some improvement: The 256,000 count for September was revised upward by 15,000 to 271,000, and the 214,000 October count got a 29,000 bump to 243,000. Overall, this means an additional 44,000 jobs added for those two months as well. Wage growth remained essentially flat, however, with average hourly earnings up by 9 cents from the preceding month. Wage gains for the entire year are on par with inflation, at 2.1 percent. The bottom line is that we are making some headway on the jobs front, but it is still coming slowly, slowly, slowly.


To dig into the IT job market, I looked at Table A-14 "Unemployed Workers by Industry and Class of Worker, Not Seasonally Adjusted." It shows job growth of 89,000 for the period from November 2013 through November 2014, an increase of about 0.8 percent. This, too, displays the same kind of slow growth mode scenario that also characterizes the economy as a whole.


This is just mildly encouraging, and indicates — at least to me — that a boost in employer confidence is going to have to come from somewhere before employment in general, and IT employment in particular, experiences any kind of meaningful upward rachet. That said, the news remains on the positive side, and the economy continues the pattern of slow but continuous growth that it's exhibited since climbing out of recession in late 2009 and early 2010. The real question then becomes: "How much further do we have to get before we all feel like we're going somewhere?"


I wish I knew, and I wish the news was upbeat enough to close out the year with a blaze of glory. As it currently stands, it looks more like the "same old, same old," albeit with some better-than-average (and usual) monthly job growth to factor into these calculations. Perhaps we can string a few months of 300,000 new jobs together. And then start hoping for the engine of the economy to finally begin firing on all cylinders.


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About the Author

Ed Tittel is a 30-plus-year computer industry veteran who's worked as a software developer, technical marketer, consultant, author, and researcher. Author of many books and articles, Ed also writes on certification topics for Tech Target, ComputerWorld and Win10.Guru. Check out his website at www.edtittel.com, where he also blogs daily on Windows 10 and 11 topics.