Is the economic recovery finally ready to blast off?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that payroll employment expanded by 321 thousand in November, an increase well above expectations. Monthly employment gains prior to November have averaged 233 thousand in 2014. Job gains in September and October were revised upward by a total of 44 thousand. The average workweek for all employees and average hourly earnings rose. Job gains were widespread. These labor market gains coupled with recent output growth point to an economic recovery that is gaining momentum (Momentum).
From the separate household survey the BLS reported the unemployment rate was unchanged at 5.8 percent in November. The report characterized the number of long-term unemployed and under-employed persons (those employed part-time who would prefer full-time work) as little changed in November, but these numbers have been trending down steadily from their peaks. In November these two categories declined by a total of 278 thousand. The labor force expanded by 119 thousand and the labor force participation rate held at 62.8 percent where it has been since April after several years of troubling declines.
Overall this is a very strong report. Jobs are being added at a robust pace, the labor force is expanding, at 5.8 percent, the unemployment rate is at the high end of what some economist might call normal (between 5 and 6 percent). If November’s progress can be sustained economic commentators should be over the moon by next spring.