U.S. economy adds 146,000 jobs

Job MarketThe U.S. economy posted 33 straight months of private-sector job growth and the lowest unemployment rate in four years in November, according to data released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

The nation added 146,000 nonfarm payroll jobs in November and the national unemployment rate dropped to 7.7 percent, the lowest level since December 2008.

The number of people who are unemployed remained stable at 12 million with little or no fluctuation in unemployment rates by age or racial group. The number of long-term unemployed was also stable at 4.8 million, or 40 percent of those who are unemployed, according to the BLS.

U.S. Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis said in a statement that job gains were reported in nearly every hiring category, despite the disruption caused by super storm Sandy on the East Coast.

“Hiring in the business and professional services sector is back to its pre-recession peak,” Solis said. “Consumer confidence is high, and Americans are shopping again. Last month, retailers added 53,000 jobs in anticipation of increased holiday sales.”

The positive jobs reports might not have much effect on interest rates since the Federal Reserve has promised to keep them low.

That’s good news for U.S. housing markets.

The good, the bad, the ugly and the weird

Lawrence Yun, chief economist of the National Association of Realtors, wrote that the employment data contained “good,” “bad,” “ugly” and “weird” elements.

The “good” was the new jobs; the “bad” was a drop in the number of jobs per household, and the “ugly” was a decrease in labor force participation, which Yun noted has “fallen precipitously in the past few years.” The “weird” was the construction employment data, which showed 20,000 fewer jobs in November.

“This does not align with rising housing starts,” Yun wrote. “Even after accounting for normal seasonal patterns, construction and general contractor job figures and building activity are not jiving.”

Still, Yun concluded, the important point for housing was that millions of jobs have been created since the low point and more people are now employed.

Housing has turned the corner

Separately, David Blitzer, chairman of the Index Committee at S&P Dow Jones Indices, said in a statement that housing “turned the corner in 2012″ with six consecutive months of rising home prices through September, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller Home Price Indices.

“Count on 2013 to be the year when housing’s rebound accelerates and the industry becomes a positive contributor to U.S. economic growth,” Blitzer said. “All major housing indicators point up: home prices, housing starts, sales of existing and new homes, buyer and builder optimism. Mortgage rates remain at or near 30-year lows and foreclosures are retreating. For the first time since the boom went bust, housing looks good.”

HSH Associates Financial News Blog

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