So ... How 'Bout That Jobs Report?

I hate to say I told you so ... so I won't. (Not because I don't like to gloat, but because it's so trite, it's got no bite.)

And yet, while avoiding the cliche, I will point out that when the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics announced we grew employment by all of 39,000 positions in November, this fell a bit short of the 140,000-jobs-gained rumor that was making the rounds yesterday. It even missed the mark on ADP's unofficial estimate of 93,000 jobs gained. The news was so bad, in fact, that unemployment in America has now crested 9.8%.


39,000 ... 93,000 ... maybe they got the digits switched?
Maybe. But either way, as I argued yesterday, neither number cuts muster for cutting U.S. unemployment. To the contrary, after flatlining for three straight months, it appears unemployment is on the upswing again (in a bad way).

That's simply astounding, considering where we were at last month. With workforce participation of working-age citizens at a literal all-time low of 64.5%, and the employment-to-population ratio at its lowest level in 30 years, you might have thought we had "nowhere to go but up." But in fact, the participation rate stuck fast, while the e2p ratio declined yet again, to 58.2%.

Which sparks the question: With so many people out of work, and so few finding new jobs ... who the heck is it that's running around buying all these new cars from Ford and General Motors?

Can you swing a pickaxe or take a temperature?
Digging through the details of the BLS report, we find fewer manufacturing jobs this month than last. Fewer retail jobs, too (reports of a bright Black Friday notwithstanding). Only three sectors of the economy stood out as positive for jobs growth: Health care, of course, as the U.S. population ages. Also mining -- as we learned last month, the rising price of gold still has the folks at Barrick Gold (NYSE: ABX  ) and Freeport-McMoRan (NYSE: FCX  ) hiring on pickaxe-swingers. And the No. 1 biggest job gainer in the country?

Temp agencies. This category of employment accounted for 40,000 of the 39,000 (!) jobs created last month. And while I'm sure that's grand news for companies like Spherion (NYSE: SFN  ) and Kelly (Nasdaq: KELYA  ) , I'm not at all convinced it justifies many more 250-points-up days on Wall Street.

But you already knew that ... because I told you so.

Take the Foolish Rorschach test. What do you see in today's chart? Tell us about it below.

Ford Motor is a Motley Fool Stock Advisor selection, but Fool contributor Rich Smithdoes not own shares of any company named above. Rich is not a licensed economist, but he plays one on the Web. Check out his latest stock recommendations on Motley Fool CAPS. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.


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