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U.S. Job Growth Held Steady in Nov., Labor Dept. Says

The U.S. Labor Department announced Friday that both job growth and unemployment remained steady in the month of November, despite problems in the housing and credit markets. New York Times economy reporter David Leonhardt evaluates the new job numbers and the state of U.S. employment.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Now, the long and short of job growth in the United States. Jeffrey Brown has our update.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Economic news of late has focused on the dangers ahead stemming from a series of troubles, from mortgage defaults to credit crunch, costlier oil, to name just a few. Today's jobs report, the last of the year, helps to clarify where the economy is, in fact, taking a hit and where it continues to show strength.

    To help us do that, we turn to David Leonhardt, an economics writer and columnist for the New York Times.

    So, David, 94,000 jobs added to payrolls last month. Put that in some perspective. What does it tell us?

  • DAVID LEONHARDT, Economics Columnist, New York Times:

    Well, it's growth, but it's weak growth. If you look at the numbers back from last year, from 2006, we basically had an average of about 200,000 jobs a month. And that's what you need, it seems, over a sustained period in order to have a really healthy job market with rising wages.

    Now we're down at 94,000, and the decline has been pretty clear throughout the course of 2007. And so it doesn't look like we're in a recession, as some people were worried about, now. But it's pretty clear at this point that the economy has slowed down.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Parse the numbers a bit for us. Where do you see the growth? And what sectors do you see losing jobs?

  • DAVID LEONHARDT:

    It's sort of what you would expect. Any sector that is in any way tied to the housing market is having trouble. So we see real declines in construction employment and real declines in financial services employment, which is clearly tied to the problems in the mortgage market.

    We also see a decline in manufacturing, which is in part related to the housing market, because manufacturers often make things that people buy for new houses, and in part it's the continuing long-term decline in manufacturing.

    We see strength almost everywhere else. We see strength in government hiring. But maybe more to the point, we see it in almost every other part of the private sector, strength in retail hiring, strength in restaurant hiring, strength in hotel hiring, strength in health care hiring.

    And so while you can tell a really compelling story, in my mind, about why other parts of the economy are going to suffer from the housing boom — namely, because of a slowdown in consumer spending — we don't see it yet.