U.S. Economy Loses Another 85,000 Jobs in December
January 11, 2010 Timothy Prickett Morgan
Well, Wall Street and the Obama Administration got a little splash of cold water on their faces last Friday as the Department of Labor said that the U.S. economy lost another 85,000 jobs in December.
While the economy is certainly in better shape in terms of monthly job losses than it was in December 2008, when the employers removed a stunning 760,000 people from their payrolls as the economic meltdown was heating up, the expectation after a pretty good jobs report for last November, when the economy only shed 11,000 jobs, was that December would be about the same, with only 10,000 job losses. That didn’t happen. Even with healthcare, services, and selected industries (such as computer and electronics manufacturers) adding jobs last month, the construction, manufacturing, and wholesale industries–the key industries for the economy and historically for the AS/400 market, too–lost 85,000 jobs.
The good news is that the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which compiles the monthly jobs report and calculates the unemployment rate, now figures that the American economy actually added 4,000 jobs in November rather than losing 11,000 workers; however, figures for October 2009 were also revised, and the BLS said that employers shed 127,000 workers, not the 111,000 reported in early November. Revisions have been a way of life for the monthly BLS reports since the economy went into recession formally in December 2007, and there is no reason to believe that the December 2009 figures might be revised a month or two from now, and that could mean the “job situation,” as Uncle Sam calls it, could be better or worse than we now think.
In a modern computer age where all employers are paying taxes in real time for employees, it is amazing to me that we aren’t counting employees for real each month, and not just by industry, but by job title, too, so we can actually use this data to plan our careers and lives. But, alas, the BLS uses employer and household survey data and cooks up estimates for employment by industry, and doesn’t even try to track employment by job title. This is phenomenally stupid.
For now, the unemployment rate is steady at 10 percent, but 4.2 million jobs have been vaporized by the economic meltdown in 2009, and since the recession in the United States began in December 2007, some 7.7 million jobs have gone the way of all flesh. The unemployment rate was half the current level two years ago.
If you drill down into the BLS jobs situation report, which you can download here, industries that are related (more or less) to the IT sector did comparatively better than the job market overall. Computer and electronics makers employed over 1.1 million people in December (up 600 net new jobs from the prior month); within this broad category, computer and peripheral manufacturers added 400 jobs (to 159,000), communications equipment makers increased their payrolls by 600 (to 124,800), and semiconductor and electronics component makers had 1,000 more employees (to 364,400). Data processing and hosting companies added 700 jobs in December 2009, according to the BLS, pushing the payrolls up 254,600, while telco companies shed 700 people, falling to a 968,300 aggregate payroll. Computer systems design and related services company added 4,600 jobs, to just under 1.49 million employees in total.