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November Jobs Report a Sugar Cane Treat in U.S.; A Lump of Coal in Canada

November Jobs Report a Sugar Cane Treat in U.S.; A Lump of Coal in Canada

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), acting as Santa Claus,delivered a delightful gift basket of treats in its last Employment Situation Report before the seasonal holidays.

Total U.S. employment in November rose by a solidly hefty 211,000 jobs, which was almost exactly the same as the 210,000 average during the previous ten months of this year.

Full year 2015’s employment gain will almost certainly be close to or better than 2.5 million.

As a result of the latest bullish labor market report, there is a 90% probably the Federal Reserve will initiate its first interest rate hike in six years a little more than a week from now.

At +46,000, the construction sector had its best month for jobs growth in almost two years, dating back to January 2014 (+69,000). More than half of the latest construction jobs increase was provided by residential specialty trade contractors (+26,000).

Overall construction employment in America so far this year has averaged +20,000 per month, which has been a little slower than the +27,000 figure achieved during the same first 11 months of 2014.

The construction sector’s not-seasonally adjusted (NSA)unemployment rate now sits at 6.2%, comparing favorably with November-of-last-year’s 7.5%.

The jobless rate for the nation as a whole stayed at 5.0%,the same as in October. In 2014, at this time, it was 5.8%. 

Among other industry sub-sectors, the lowest unemployment rates are being recorded by: government workers, 2.2% (vs. 3.0% a year ago);financial activities, 2.6% (vs. 3.5% a year ago); and education and health services, 3.2% (vs. 4.0% a year ago).  

The most severe annual change in unemployment rate has occurred in ‘mining, quarrying and oil and gas extraction’. A previously tight 2.8% figure has now soared to 8.5%, mainly as a fall-out consequence of the dramatic drop in the global price of oil.

Manufacturing employment stayed essentially flat in November(-1,000 jobs) and, for the first time in almost two years, there was a decline (-3,000) in the number of workers on motor vehicle and parts assembly lines.

Among service-providing sub-sectors, November’s largest month-to-month jobs jumps were in: education and health, +40,000; leisure and hospitality, +39,000; retail trade, +31,000; and professional and business services, +27,000.

Within education and health services, there was an 8,000-job gain for the former and a 32,000-job surge for the latter. Employment at hospitals rose by 8,000 in the month.

The leisure and hospitality jobs climb was mostly on account of net new hiring by ‘accommodation and food services’ establishments, +33,000

That summary figure is misleading, though. ‘Food services and drinking places’ alone added 32,000 positions, while companies providing accommodation (i.e., hotels/motels) increased staffing by only 1,000.

Employment in the government sector is beginning to creep higher again. Washington added 6,000 jobs in November; the states, 3,000; and local authorities, 5,000. That makes for a combined public sector sum of 14,000 net new jobs.

On a year-over-year percentage change basis, total U.S.employment is now +1.9%, with the services sector making headway a little faster, at +2.4%.

Among major sub-sectors, construction (+4.2% year over year)is in first place, followed by professional and business services (+3.1%).Education and health (+2.9%) and leisure and hospitality (also +2.9%) are tied for third.

Year-over-year wage gains generally eased across the board.Including supervisory personnel, average hourly earnings for all industries retreated to +2.3% from +2.5% in October. Average weekly earnings fell from+2.5% to +2.0%.

Specifically for construction, average hourly earnings bucked the trend, rising to +2.7% from +2.6%. But average weekly earnings slipped from +4.1% to +2.9%.

If the U.S. jobs report for November was a succulent sugarcane, Canada’s was an unappealing lump of coal.

Statistics Canada, based on its latest Labour Force Survey,is reporting a jobs contraction of 36,000 in November, coincident with a deterioration in the unemployment rate to 7.1% from 7.0% in October.

This isn’t necessarily the cause for alarm that one might immediately suppose, however.

There was an extraordinary 45,000-jobs increase in October that was mainly due to short-term hiring to help the various federal political parties leading up to the national election on the 19th of the month.

As such, it was a positive change outside the bounds of normal seasonality. Of course, there was going to be a radical re-adjustment afterwards − i.e., in the subsequent month, November. 

Canadian average month-to-month jobs growth so far this year, at +12,000, has been exactly the same as for the identical period last year.

There may have been a 73,000-job plunge in part-time Canadian work in November, but there was also an encouraging 36,000-job upward percolation in the full-time category.

Both manufacturing and construction recorded nice month-to-month jobs increases in the latest month, +17,000 and +15,000 respectively.

On an annual percentage-change basis, Canadian total employment was +0.7%; services, +1.0%; manufacturing, +1.4%; and construction,-0.6%.

The lower-valued ‘loonie’ (i.e., Canada’s currency), vis-à-vis the U.S. greenback, does appear to be providing lift for the export sales of some manufacturers, leading to payroll additions.

Regionally, despite the current economic difficulties being experienced by the resource-dependent provinces of Canada’s West, three of the four are still registering the lowest unemployment rates in the country:Saskatchewan, 5.5%; Manitoba, 6.1%; and British Columbia, 6.2%.

As for the other reliably headline-worthy western province,Alberta, its jobless rate has risen above Ontario’s for the first time in at least a decade, 7.0% to 6.9%.

But for all the talk of job losses in Alberta’s oil patch,and in ancillary sectors, Statistics Canada is recording a year-over-yearchange in total employment for that province of only -0.1%.

Intuitively, this would seem to be understating ground-level reality. 

B.C., among all provinces, is currently the jobs growth leader, at +2.6%.


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