- The Washington Times - Friday, November 5, 2010

Job growth picked up last month to 151,000 as employers across a broad spectrum of industries added to their staff, the Labor Department reported Friday morning.

While the job situation was considerably improved from the summer, when layoffs in the public sector led to overall job losses, October’s job gains were not enough to draw down the unemployment rate from 9.6 percent, where it has stayed for months. Unemployment is down from its peak a year ago of 10.1 percent, however.

The brighter jobs picture suggests that the Federal Reserve’s cash infusion for the economy may already be working to spur a pick-up in economic activity. The growth in jobs was particularly large in retail, at 27,900 during the month, suggesting that merchants expect a recent uptick in consumer spending to continue.

Growth in education and health care jobs was also robust, at 34,900, and temporary jobs resumed their strong expansion of 53,000 during the month. Even the beleaguered construction industry saw a small job gain of 5,000, helping to offset relatively small losses of 8,000 positions in government and 7,000 in manufacturing.

“This is a good for growth story — no double-dip recession here. The recovery continues,” said John Silvia, chief economist at Wells Fargo Securities.

The nation’s important service sector — which comprises about two-thirds of the economy — is showing steady improvement, with areas that employ millions of people like education and health care, business services and trade, posting a string of job gains in recent months, he noted.

A rise in the workweek to 34.3 hours from 34.2 in September will “support positive economic momentum going forward,” he said.

Heidi Shierholz, economist at the Economic Policy Institute, hailed the acceleration in jobs gains, and noted one pleasant surprise was that the job losses in state and local government were unexpectedly modest.

But she added that “job losses in this sector will likely worsen in future months given state and local budget challenges.” And while the October job increase was a “step in the right direction,” it would still take years to get back to pre-recession levels of job growth at today’s pace of job creation, she said.

House Republican Leader John Boehner of Ohio, who likely will be House speaker next year, noted that unemployment has stayed above 9.5 percent for 15 straight months — the longest such stretch since the Great Depression.

“Any job growth is a positive sign,” he said, “but stagnant and stubbornly high unemployment make clear why permanently stopping all the looming tax hikes should top Washington’s to-do list this month.”

President Obama said on Thursday he was open to a temporary extension of the Bush tax cuts, including the ones for wealthy people, but he said he could not support a permanent extension for families earning more than $250,000 a year.

Sung Won Sohn, economics professor at California State University Channel Islands, said an extension of the tax cuts, which expire at the end of the year, would help.

“The rout in the mid-term election is a catalyst calling the administration and the Federal Reserve into action to support the economy,” he said. “The average private job gain so far in this recovery is far short of what the economy needs.”

So far in the last year since the job market started recovering, the economy has created 1.1 million jobs — not enough to make up for the 8.4 million lost during the recession, according to the department.

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