November jobs report reveals mixed fortunes for industry sectors

December 7, 2012

With the potential fiscal cliff still up for debate in the halls of government, U.S. manufacturers have been waiting for November job figures with a mixture of excitement and trepidation.

While the nation waited to analyze the data provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the news that 146,000 jobs were added across the private sector came as an unexpected surprise to a number of economists. A recent poll by Reuters revealed that the expected figure would be around 93,000, with Hurricane Sandy also assumed to have a detrimental effect.

Although there are still 12 million Americans out of work, the unemployment rate has dropped to 7.7 percent, the lowest figure since December 2008. This continued surge in nationwide job creation, an upward trend since July 2012, was cautiously welcomed by industry analysts, many of whom see some signs of economic recovery.

However the economy still remains in a relatively tepid state, with the stalemate over the expiry of the Bush-era tax cuts and the proposed reduction in government spending seen as potentially limiting future growth.

The figures released by the BLS shows that the retail sector was the big winner in the job creation game, with 52,600 positions added in November, while business and professional services gained by 43,000. Both of these industries can have a trickle down effect into manufactured goods production, with U.S. companies able to point to their quality management in manufacturing as proof that the domestic products continue to be in high demand in consumer-driven markets.

Despite the increase in retail and a rise in temporary hires, manufacturing employment fell by 7,000 jobs in November, while the construction industry reported a loss of 20,000 jobs in the same period. The BLS also reported that it had revised the September and October employment figures by a total of 49,000, with some economists seeing this as a sign that companies were being forced to implement lean enterprise policies.

The increase of the average hourly wage by four cents, coupled with the length of the working week remaining at  34.4 hours, was another indication that the economy has a long way to go before making a full recovery.

"While more work remains to be done, today's employment report provides further evidence that the US economy is continuing to heal from the wounds inflicted by the worst downturn since the Great Depression," said Alan Krueger, chairman of the White House Council of Economic Advisors, in an interview with the BBC.