Economy Watch: November Employment Gains Flat; Household Net Worth Peaks

Employment growth has averaged about the same monthly job gain as in 2011. U.S household net worth has increased during the second quarter compared to the same quarter last year. And Wall Street was up on Thursday.

By Dees Stribling, Contributing Editor

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported on Friday that the U.S. economy created 146,000 jobs in November, which is a fairly typical number these days. Since the beginning of this year, employment growth has averaged 151,000 per month, about the same as the average monthly job gain in 2011, which was 153,000.

The unemployment rate edged down to 7.7 percent in November, according to the household survey. The number of unemployed persons, at 12 million, didn’t change very much. Some people simply left the labor force. The labor force participation rate declined by 0.2 percentage point to 63.6 percent in November, offsetting an increase of the same amount in October, noted the BLS.

The monthly jobs numbers followed Thursday’s report on initial unemployment claims, which dropped for the week ending Dec. 1 to 370,000, down 25,000 from the week before, and more in line with pre-Sandy numbers. The four-week moving average of claims, on the other hand, was up to 408,000, reflecting the spike during the immediate aftermath of the hurricane.

Household Worth Up

According to the Federal Reserve on Thursday, total U.S. household net worth increased $1.72 trillion during the second quarter of 2012, compared to the same quarter in 2011, to reach $64.8 trillion. That’s up $13.6 trillion from the most recent trough in the first quarter of 2009, but still short of the most recent peak in the third quarter of 2007, when the total household worth was $67.3 trillion.

Some of the recent gains in net worth were because of residential real estate. The Fed also estimates that during the third quarter, the value of U.S. household real estate increased $301 billion to $17.2 trillion, reflecting the continued upward movement in the housing market in 2012. Still, the aggregate value of household real estate is $5.5 trillion below its mid-2000s peak.

Another source of increasing household wealth is Wall Street, which has had a relatively good run in recent years despite other weak economic indicators. In the last quarter, the total value of traded equities increased about $800 billion.

Wall Street was up on Thursday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average gaining 39.55 points, or 0.3 percent. The S&P advanced 0.33 percent and the Nasdaq was up 0.52 percent.

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