In the strongest jobs report since the recession began, the government reported Friday that the nation’s employers had all but stopped shedding jobs in November, taking some of the pressure off of President Obama to come up with a jobs creation program.
The Labor Department reported Friday that the United States economy shed 11,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate fell to 10 percent, down from 10.2 percent in October.
The government also significantly revised September and October numbers. September was adjusted to show a loss of 139,000 jobs instead of 219,000, and October 111,000 instead of 190,000.
Though the pace has been declining since a peak in January, the November number was surprising. Economists have been expecting a turning point to come in the late spring or summer, with employers finally adding workers as a recovery takes hold. The last time the number was this good was December 2007, when the economy added 120,000 jobs.
“We’re moving toward stability in the labor market and the end of the tremendous firing that has plagued America,” said Allen L. Sinai, the founder of Decision Economics, a research firm. “But it’s going to be bleak for years. While it is going to be better than what we’ve seen, it’s still going to be terrible.”
A large number of employees are working fewer hours than they would like because many companies are operating below capacity and have resisted adding staff until orders turn up and the incipient recovery seems likely to endure. Indeed, a broader measure of unemployment fell in November to 17.2 percent, from 17.5 percent in October. This broader measure covers not only those seeking work but those whose hours have been cut and those too discouraged to look for work.
The number of Americans facing long-term unemployment, which includes people who cannot find work for 27 weeks or more, has been at record highs in recent months, reaching 5.6 million in October. It was more than 5.9 million people in November, or 38.3 of percent of those unemployed. Once hiring resumes, those workers are likely to be among the last to land jobs.
“You create this class of people who essentially become permanently unemployed and can’t get back in,” said Nigel Gault, chief domestic economist at IHS Global Insight. “You have people who have lost contact with the labor market, whose skills are not relevant for jobs for the future, who employers regard with skepticism because they have been out of work for so long.”
In recent months, the economy has shown modest signs of stability in manufacturing and construction — each a big source of job loss in the nearly two years since the recession began. But consumer spending remains tepid even as holiday shopping gets under way.
On Thursday, President Obama convened a jobs summit and said he would announce proposals next week to strengthen employment. “We cannot hang back and hope for the best,” the president said, though he added “our resources are limited.”
Economists generally say that the worst of the recession has passed, and most forecast mild growth into next year. But that does not change the economic reality for millions of Americans, who must deal with piles of unpaid bills, worries about unexpected medical expenses and concerns about losing their homes.
Kathy M. Henry, 39, who lives in a subsidized apartment on the South Side of Chicago, was laid off from her job as an administrative assistant at an advertising agency two years ago. Since then, she says, she has applied for more than 500 jobs. She has received a $1,200 monthly unemployment check since August of last year, which she describes as not enough to support herself and two of her children who live with her.
“It’s a constant cycle,” she said. “I’ve applied everywhere, from big corporations to minute corporations, and I don’t even get an e-mail back. I’m worried people see me as old and out of touch and decrepit.”
Earlier this week, Ms. Henry’s son, a high school senior, came home with a packet of class photographs. The $40 cost was beyond her means, she said, so she decided against purchasing a memento of her son’s senior year.
In Canada on Friday, the government reported that the country’s economy added more jobs than expected in November, erasing the losses in October. Statistics Canada reported a net employment gain of 79,000 in November, topping expectations of a 15,000 gain. The unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent from 8.6 percent in October.