When the Department of Labor releases the November U.S. jobs report tomorrow (Friday), brace yourself for dismal news.
U.S. jobs growth most likely experienced a sharp slowdown last month as the late-October Superstorm Sandy interrupted economic activity.
According to a Reuters survey of economists, nonfarm payrolls are forecast to show a gain of just 93,000 in November, down considerably from 171,000 in October.
Economists surveyed by CNNMoney are more pessimistic, calling for nonfarm payroll gains of 77,000 in November.
Barclays' outlook is even bleaker. The bank sees a gain of 50,000, which would push the jobless rate to 8.0% from 7.9%.
Superstorm Sandy's Effect on U.S. Jobs Report
All the forecasts on the nonfarm payrolls in the U.S. jobs report would mean the fewest number of U.S. jobs added in five months, and analysts blame Superstorm Sandy.
Economists say the storm could have cost 25,000 to 75,000 jobs. But gauging the storm's actual impact on the jobs data is difficult.
Lewis Alexander, chief economist at Nomura Securities in New York, told Reuters, "It is important to remember that the impact of Sandy on total nonfarm payrolls is temporary and should not be blamed for the woes of the current labor market recovery."
On Wednesday, payroll processing firm ADP reported private sector employers added 118,000 jobs in November, compared with 157,000 the previous month. ADP said Sandy had reduced the number of jobs by 86,000.
"Had we not experienced the kind of disruption that Sandy brought to bear, we would have seen at least a recurrence, if not an increase, in the number of jobs added in November," Patrick O'Keefe, head of economic research at J.H. Cohn in Roseland, NJ, told CNNMoney.
"The underlying trend temporarily got disrupted by the storm, but it's still a very tepid recovery."
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Jobless Claims Drop for Third Straight Week
Meanwhile, the number of Americans filing for unemployment benefits dropped for a third consecutive week, back to the pre-Sandy range.
The Labor Department reported today (Thursday) initial jobless claims for state unemployment benefits for the week ended Dec. 1 decreased 25,000 to a seasonally adjusted 370,000. Forecasts were for claims to decline to 380,000.
Pierre Ellis, senior global economist at New York's Decision Economics, told Reuters: "We could reasonably assume there is no underlying deterioration or acceleration in the labor market before the storm."
The four-week moving average for new claims, a clearer read on which way the labor market is trending, rose 2,250 to 408,000, the highest level since October 2011. While the number is a reflection of Sandy's serious impact, there are other underlying factors, including fears of the fiscal cliff.
As for what we should expect when numbers are released Friday, Ellis said, "We should still have a relative poor payroll reading tomorrow, but we should have some confidence that payrolls would bounce back in December."
U.S. Jobs Report Not Expected to Influence Fed
As the Federal Reserve prepares to meet Tuesday and Wednesday, the U.S. jobs report isn't expected to influence the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) at its last monetary meeting in 2012.
With job data skewed by Sandy and its lingering effects, the Fed's policymakers likely won't give too much weight to the U.S. jobs report.
What to watch on future U.S. jobs reports: the effect of businesses across all sectors imposing hiring freezes and handing out pink slips in anticipation that no deal will be reached in Washington to avert the fiscal cliff.
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