Business, Finance & Economics

US jobs report: Geeking out over November's employment data (VIDEO)


US President Barack Obama speaks during a Town Hall meeting on the ongoing efforts to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland, on July 22, 2011.


Jewel Samad

Like clockwork, the monthly ritual happened again today.

Imagine scads of people from sea to shining sea, huddled around their computers waiting for the most important economic number of the month: the US unemployment report.

This monthly government report is important because in the consumer-driven US economy, people don't spend if they don't have jobs. They also don't spend if they don't have the confidence that they will keep their existing jobs. 

In other words, confidence is the whole game in economics. 

This month's report — which showed a rise of 120,000 new jobs, and a big drop in the unemployment rate to 8.6 percent — was also particularly important as it coincides with all the drama today about whether German leader Angela Merkel and her European colleagues can or will seriously address the ongoing euro crisis.

Related: Merkel's plan won't fix Europe; Germany still says "NEIN!" to ECB as last resort lender

So how should we think about the result?

Economists being economists, there has been a mixed reaction. 

Either things are getting better:

"Overall this is a decent report in the context of an economy growing modestly but there are clear signs in the household employment and temp numbers to suggest better times ahead," wrote Ian Shepherdson, High Frequency Economics, according to the Wall Street Journals' Real Time Economics blog.

Or things are not getting better:

"We don’t see much positive in the November employment report, as the largest component of payroll gains appears temporary and the household survey reported seemingly-contradictory data," Guy LeBas of Janney Montgomery Scott wrote in that same WSJ round-up of economist reactions. 

Clearly, the numbers were watched closely at the White House and across Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and wherever else Republican presidential aspirants happen to be campaigning.

The jobs number is, of course, critical to who ends up winning next year's election. 

And with today's result, President Obama will probably get a boost.

That's because most Americans tune in first to the headline unemployment rate, rather than the geekier analysis of just how many humans were actually added to the US non-farm payroll in this month, or that month, or which months were revised upward or downward. 

Seen through that political prism, the big drop from 9 percent to 8.6 percent is significant. 

But if you really want to watch business journalists geek out over a few numbers, then you can do no better than this video clip, again from our friends at the Journal.

It mixes breathless reaction to the numbers with plenty of smart economic analysis. Oh, and a really ugly holiday sweater. 

Don't say I didn't warn you: 

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