Gallup: Unemployment sharply rises

Americans got mixed messages on employment today, as two more indicators tallied up before tomorrow’s jobs report for November.  Gallup’s tracking surveys on employment showed bad news, as both adjusted and unadjusted figures showed the sharpest uptick in unemployment in the last two years:

U.S. unemployment, as measured by Gallup without seasonal adjustment, was 7.8% for the month of November, up significantly from 7.0% for October. Gallup’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate is 8.3%, nearly a one-point increase over October’s rate. …

It is unclear what caused the increase in the unemployment rate in November, although some experts speculate that it was caused by jobs lost as a result of superstorm Sandy. It is also possible that lackluster holiday hiring is to blame.

Although the increase in the unadjusted rate in November is a sharp contrast to the 0.9-point decline seen in October, November’s 7.8% rate is still tied for the second-best unadjusted unemployment monthly reading of 2012. However, on an adjusted basis, November’s rate is the highest reading in six months. Looking at year-to-year comparisons, seasonally adjusted unemployment is down from 8.9% in November 2011.

Underemployment, as measured without seasonal adjustment, was 17.2% in November, a 1.3-point increase since the end of October. The uptick in November also puts an end to the six-month trend of improvements or no change. Still, underemployment has improved 0.9 points since November 2011.

Here’s the graph for the last two years.  The results don’t put us back into the 2011 time frame, but they come close — and they’re significantly worse than most people expected, even with Hurricane Sandy:

Meanwhile, the Department of Labor reported that the level of weekly jobless claims returned to the status quo ante Sandy, down to 370,000:

In the week ending December 1, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 370,000, a decrease of 25,000 from the previous week’s revised figure of 395,000. The 4-week moving average was 408,000, an increase of 2,250 from the previous week’s revised average of 405,750.

The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.5 percent for the week ending November 24, a decrease of 0.1 percentage point from the prior week’s unrevised rate. The advance number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending November 24 was 3,205,000, a decrease of 100,000 from the preceding week’s revised level of 3,305,000. The 4-week moving average was 3,309,000, an increase of 7,750 from the preceding week’s revised average of 3,301,250.

Reuters rightly notes that this particular drop doesn’t tell us much, but the level is squarely within the middle of the range we’ve seen for the past 18 months.  The economy is shedding jobs at roughly the same rate as we’ve seen for that period, and it’s not generating jobs quickly enough to give those workers enough options other than unemployment.

In other words, don’t expect a dramatic shift in any direction tomorrow.  Given the data from Gallup today and ADP yesterday, I’ll predict that the jobs report shows about 95,000 jobs added and a jobless rate remaining steady at 7.9%.  What do you think the topline number of jobs added will be in tomorrow’s report?  Take the poll: