The Bureau of Labor Statistics unemployment report for November came out at 8:30 this morning. The unemployment rate fell to 7 percent in November, its lowest rate since November 2008, as the country was plunging into the deep recession. Partly, however, that reflected the recall of federal workers who had been furloughed in the shutdown of October. The economy added 203,000 jobs last month, above the average of 180,000 per month for 2013 (but which, in turn, was below 2012’s average of 183,000).
Still, while the number of those unemployed less than five weeks declined by 300,000, those unemployed for more than 27 weeks remained essentially flat at 4.1 million. The labor force participation rate, which has been in decline throughout the recession and anemic recovery, rose from 62.8 percent to 63.0.
These numbers might be good enough for the Federal Reserve to consider scaling back on its bond and mortgage purchases at the monthly meeting of its Open Market Committee later this month. That would account for the Dow being down about 70 points, as Wall Street likes the low interest rates that the Fed’s purchases have produced.
Meanwhile, the government on Thursday revised upwards its estimate of third-quarter GDP growth to 3.6 percent, the best showing since the first quarter of 2012. But much of that growth came by means of inventory growth rather than increased sales. So most economists expected fourth-quarter growth to be much more modest. The New York Times reports that Barclay’s has cut back its estimate of fourth-quarter growth to a mere 1.5 percent annual rate.
Overall, the news is moderately good. There is still no boom in sight, but at least things are moving in the right direction, if modestly.