Industry adds, government cuts
The current jobs situation appeared slightly brighter than in the past several months. In October, private employers added 104,000 workers, but because the government cut 24,000 jobs, the net gain totaled just 80,000.
Better information led officials to revise the figures for September's hiring upward to 158,000 from 103,000, and for August to 104,000 from 57,000.
Ryan Sweet, an economist at Moody's Analytics, says Friday's report, and the revised gains from previous months, suggest the labor market is "gradually healing."
"There's a lot of uncertainty in the outlook. Businesses seem content to keep hiring at a bare minimum," he says. "Job growth will muddle along. It's going to take time to lower the unemployment rate. We expect 9 percent unemployment for most of next year. But smaller businesses appear to be taking a more active role in the recovery."
But Heather Boushey, senior economist at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement that the job growth "can barely be called a recovery. ... We should be seeing upwards of 300,000 jobs created per month, but the economy only added a paltry 80,000 jobs in October."
Signs of hope
Other indicators suggesting improvement:
- Fewer people filed for first-time unemployment benefits. On Thursday, the Labor Department reported that 397,000 people filed claims in the week that ended Oct. 29. That's 9,000 fewer than the revised 406,000 for the prior week.
- Layoffs seem to be waning. Employers in October said they planned to cut 42,759 positions, the lowest level since June, and a 63 percent decline from September, according to a survey by the Chicago outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas. Most of those planned cuts were in the financial and government sectors. As the holidays approached, some companies surveyed said they plan to hire 160,000 people for seasonal employment this year.
- According to Automatic Data Processing, a payroll-processing firm, private employers added 110,000 jobs in October. Small and medium-size businesses led the charge.
Also of interest: Best employers for workers over 50. >>
Carole Fleck is a senior editor at the AARP Bulletin.