News Column

Jobs Data the Worst of the Year

June 4, 2012

Ann Belser


Unemployment was up, wages were down and the number of jobs created was lower than anyone expected in the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report on May's employment situation released Friday.

While economists were not counting on job creation last month to rival the growth the nation experienced during the first quarter when net job gains averaged 225,000 a month, they also didn't predict it would come in as low as it did -- a net gain of 69,000 additional jobs.

Adding insult to injury, job growth numbers for the previous two months were revised downward. March gains were revised to 143,000 jobs from a previously estimated 154,000 and April's job growth fell from the originally reported 115,000 jobs to 77,000.

One sure way to tell that the monthly report was a disappointment was to read the first sentence of the chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisor's response to the news. Alan B. Krueger opened by saying, "Problems in the job market were long in the making and will not be solved overnight."

He did note that the private sector has added jobs for the last 27 months, but added, "There is much more work that remains to be done."

Wall Street disliked the report, which was released before the market opened Friday morning. Before noon the Dow Jones industrial average had fallen to 12,158.49, down 234.96 from the close on Thursday. The Dow closed down 275 points at 12,118. The S&P 500 index closed down 32 points at 1,278, and the Nasdaq composite index closed down 80 points at 2,747.

"Overall, it was a terrible report," said Matt Yanni, a principal in Yanni & Associates Investment Advisors in Franklin Park. Mr. Yanni expects unemployment to continue to rise, though not to double digits.

A separate survey of households that determines the unemployment rate showed some positive signs, as 422,000 more people had jobs in May than in April. Many had been out of the labor market before that, possibly a reflection of graduating college seniors who obtained jobs.

While the nation's labor market grew by 642,000 people, the number of unemployed grew by 220,000.

In the past, the unemployment rate has been held down, in part, because some people gave up looking for work and stepped out of the labor market. Now some of those sidelined workers have found jobs. The monthly job flows report showed that more people who joined the labor market did so to take jobs than to look for work.

Jim John, chief operating officer for job search engine Beyond.Com in King of Prussia, Montgomery County, said his company expected a lean jobs report because of a slowdown in help-wanted postings.

From April to May, the company saw a 17 percent decrease in advertisements, which does not bode well for hiring in June and July, he said. Beyond.Com also owns and targeted job search sites for other regions and specific industries, such as health care jobs and information technology jobs.

Mr. John said large employers are hesitant to hire because of uncertainties such as Greece's possible exit from the European Union, the upcoming presidential election and the pending expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts.

While the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a slight increase of 2,300 jobs in retail trade in May, Mr. John said his company saw postings for sales jobs drop 24.3 percent last month, which means people won't be hired next month. Management and business jobs are also drying up; Mr. John said ads in that area fell by 33.7 percent.

In addition to the diminished number of jobs, the report also found wages also went down.

In every single sector of the goods-producing industries, wages declined. Workers in mining and logging saw nearly $10 in average weekly losses. Manufacturing workers saw wage declines that averaged $8.81 a week.

Workers in financial activities, a sector that added 3,000 jobs, saw their wages increase by $3.05 a week, the largest increase of the four sectors that saw an improvement.

Source: (c)2012 the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

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