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Jobs back on track
Hiring picks up, unemployment steady at 5% as labor market starts recovering post-Katrina.
December 2, 2005: 12:44 PM EST
By Chris Isidore, senior writer

NEW YORK ( - U.S. payroll growth kicked back into gear in November, the government said Friday, in a report showing the labor market recovering from its post-Katrina weakness.

Employers added 215,000 jobs to payrolls last month, the Labor Department reported, up from a revised 44,000 in October. Economists surveyed by had forecast a gain of 210,000.

The numbers gave the Bush administration reason to cheer.

"We have every reason to be optimistic about our economic future," President Bush said in a mid-morning news conference at the White House.

Bush said November's strong job growth was due to what he said was a policy of cutting taxes and restraining spending and pledged to continue with that strategy.

But outgoing Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan had a different take on the state of the economy. (Click here for that story.)

"We're not going to rest until every American who wants a job finds one," Bush said.

The unemployment rate held steady at 5 percent, also in line with economists' forecasts.

The gain in November payrolls now matches average job growth during the first eight months of the year, before Hurricane Katrina hit in late August, temporarily derailing the job market.

The government's September payroll report initially had shown the first decline in employment in more than two years, although Friday's report revised that to a gain of 17,000 jobs. And October job growth had come in below forecasts even before it was revised lower in the most recent report.

"This is another affirmation that we've gotten over the shock of the hurricanes and the economy is back on track to where it was before," said Mark Vitner, senior economist with Wachovia Securities.

The gains were broad based, with construction adding 37,000, manufacturing payrolls growing by 11,000 and business and professional services adding 29,000. The retail sector added just 9,000 jobs, although those numbers are seasonally adjusted for the holiday shopping season.

"Today's employment report also has sustainability written all over it," said Anthony Chan, senior economist with JPMorgan Asset Management, noting strength across the economy.

Average hourly earnings rose 3 cents to $16.32, which was in line with forecasts.

During the last 12 months, average wages are up 3.2 percent, less than the 4.3 percent gain in prices during the 12 months ending in October, according to Labor Department numbers, meaning the average hourly paycheck lost ground to inflation during the last year.

The average work week fell slightly, the department said, slipping to 33.7 hours from 33.8 hours in October. Chan said that one was the one area that suggested softness in an otherwise strong report.

"As for forward momentum, this report also raises a few concerns especially when one focuses on the decline in the length of the average workweek," he said. "Declines in the work week typically signal a loss in future job creation momentum."

On Wall Street, stocks and bonds edged lower after the report.

There had been some worry on Wall Street that a much stronger-than-forecast gain would send stock and bond prices sharply lower because it would have fed recent fears that the Federal Reserve would have to keep raising interest rates more aggressively than investors now expect.

"This report should soothe the fears of monetary policy-makers who are trying to adjust policy to prevent the economy from overheating," said Chan.

The strong gains in November construction employment might be difficult to sustain if recent reports that suggest a slowing in the real estate and home building market prove to be correct.

Most real estate economists expect that the nation's white-hot housing market will cool next year due to higher mortgage rates.


So why is Alan Greenspan so concerned? Click here.

For a closer look at the labor market and what it means for you and markets, click here.  Top of page

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