Unemployment remains at 10.0%; Update: "Unexpectedly"

Last month’s surprisingly sunny report on losses did not hold, and the US remains in double-digit unemployment:

Nonfarm payroll employment edged down (-85,000) in December, and the unemployment rate was unchanged at 10.0 percent, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment fell in construction, manufacturing, and wholesale trade, while temporary help services and health care added jobs.

In December, both the number of unemployed persons, at 15.3 million, and the unemployment rate, at 10.0 percent, were unchanged. At the start of the recession in December 2007, the number of unemployed persons was 7.7 million, and the unemployment rate was 5.0 percent. …

Total nonfarm payroll employment edged down in December (-85,000). Job losses continued in construction, manufacturing, and wholesale trade, while temporary help services and health care continued to add jobs. During 2009, monthly job losses moderated substantially. Employment losses in the first quarter of 2009 averaged 691,000 per month, compared with an average loss of 69,000 per month in the fourth quarter.

The number of jobs lost rose significantly between November and December, although the unemployment rate held steady.  In fact, the last paragraph shows a potential problem rolling into 2010.  The average job losses in the fourth quarter were skewed by the unexpectedly small decline in November, leading people to think that the end was near for job loss and that net job growth may be close.  Instead, December outpaced the entire quarter — in a season where retail usually adds positions.

The losses in construction and manufacturing give the greatest worry.  Those industries have been in free fall for over a year, and the economic stimulus package supposedly addressed those specifically.  There has been no jobs “saved or created” in those industries in numbers large enough to matter.

Update: This was predictable, but I figured AP would use it before Reuters:

U.S. employers unexpectedly cut 85,000 jobs in December, cooling optimism on the labor market’s recovery and keeping pressure on President Barack Obama to find ways to spur job growth.

“Unexpectedly.”  It’s the word we’ve come to expect with every job report.