Unemployment Drops To 8.6 Percent; 120,000 Jobs Added

The nation’s unemployment rate fell to 8.6 percent in November from 9 percent in October as payrolls went up by 120,000 jobs, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says.

While the jobless rate is now the lowest it’s been since March 2009, economists say one reason it fell isn’t good news — the size of the labor force shrank by 315,000 as more people stopped looking for work because they’re discouraged about the chances of finding a job. Also tempering the enthusiasm about today’s news: 120,000 new jobs on payrolls is still considered to be weak growth.

We’ll be updating this post with more from the report.

Update at 8:55 a.m. ET. Where The Jobs Grew:

BLS says payrolls grew by 50,000 at retailers, by 33,000 in professional and business services, and by 22,000 in the leisure and hospitality industries. All those are “seasonally adjusted” figures — meaning, for instance, that the estimated gain at retailers supposedly takes into account the fact that they normally add on employees for the holidays. The adjustment, in theory, is supposed to reflect the “real” change in employment.

Update at 8:50 a.m. ET. 140,000 More Private Sector Jobs:

While payroll employment rose by 120,000, that figure includes both private and public employers. Government agencies, BLS says, shed 20,000 positions. Payrolls at private employers grew by 140,000.

Update at 8:45 a.m. ET. “An Economy That Plods Along”:

Kathy Bostjancic, director of macroeconomic analysis at The Conference Board research group, says in an email to reporters that “the continued modest employment gains reflect an economy that plods along at an uninspiring pace.”

Update at 8:37 a.m. ET. More “Discouraged Workers.”

The Associated Press points out that “one reason the unemployment rate fell so much was because roughly 315,000 people gave up looking for work and were no longer counted as unemployed.”

Before the report’s release, NPR’s Yuki Noguchi looked at how the news this year about unemployment and job growth had been remarkably consistent — and not particularly good.

Our friends at Planet Money are planning to pick the report apart.

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