By Renee McNamee
CCC Journalism Program

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics U.S. Department of Labor, in November 2011, the unemployment rate fell by 0.4 percentage points to 8.6 percent and nonfarm payroll employment rose by 120,000.

In the document, Economist’s View, Mark Thoma says, “At first glance the fall in the unemployment rate seems like good news, but a closer look at the numbers reveals some weakness in the report.

“First, note that depending upon which estimates you look at, it takes from 90,000-125,000 jobs just to keep up with the growth in the population. Thus, the 120,000 jobs that were created in November is enough to keep the unemployment rate from going up, but it is not enough by itself to absorb all the new workers entering the labor force and at the same time reduce the fraction of people that are currently unemployed. So the fall in the unemployment rate cannot be attributed to robust job growth.

“Second, the report shows a decline in the labor force of 315,000 for November, and about half of the decline is attributed to discouraged workers giving up the search for a job. This exit of workers rather than job creation is the main source of the fall in the unemployment rate, and since so much of it is from discouraged workers this is not an encouraging development. Note, however, that there is a lot of month to month variability in the labor force participation numbers, and some of this may simply be month to month noise in the measurement.

“Third, many of the unemployment duration numbers continue to increase. Average search duration reached a new peak for this downturn of 40.9 weeks, and hence long-term unemployment is getting worse, not better.

“Fourth, many of the jobs that were created are in the retail sector. Thus, while some workers are finding new jobs, the new employment does not, in general, pay as well as previous employment. In addition, if the seasonal factors are different this year, e.g. if some of this is hiring for the holidays that seasonal adjustment procedures miss, then the picture is even weaker than the numbers suggest.”

The document is at


“Thank God for unemployment,” says 30-year-old Ryan Ricciardi. Ricciardi is a middle-age man who has been on unemployment benefits for the last 6 months. He used to work for his dad’s auto body shop. However, he had some family issues and no longer works for his father. His alternate option was to file for unemployment.

“I have my own house and bills to pay, I can’t afford to be unemployed,” says Ricciardi.

Unemployment is paying for Ricciardi to go back to school to study heating and air conditioning.

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