- The Washington Times - Friday, November 4, 2011

The nation’s unemployment rate fell slightly to 9 percent last month as businesses added another 80,000 jobs, the Labor Department reported Friday morning.

Job growth was concentrated in services industries such as health care, hospitality, and professional and office work. Employment continued to contract in state and local government, as it has since late 2008. Another 24,000 jobs were lost there last month.

The manufacturing sector eked out only 5,000 new jobs and construction employment fell by 20,000, after having increased 27,000 in September. Employment in mining was robust, led by gains in jobs related to the oil industry.

Adding to the upbeat news in the report, the Labor Department increased its estimate of job gains in August and September by 102,000. That brought the average monthly job gain in the last year to 125,000 — about enough to maintain unemployment where it is around 9 percent, but not enough growth to draw down the jobless rate.

“It’s not a game-changer, but when you take into account the upward revision to prior months and the drop in the unemployment rate, it’s a step in the right direction,” said John Canally, economic strategist at LPL Financial.

The average workweek held steady at 34.3 hours, and wage growth was roughly the same as September at 1.8 percent over the last year.

“I think it’s more of a robust economy than we’ve been giving it credit for,” said Karl Schamotta, senior strategist at Western Union Business Solutions. “Some of the underlying fundamentals are fairly strong. It’s not a fantastic recovery, but it’s good given what’s going on globally.”

U.S. growth has remained steady in the face of a major debt crisis in Europe which appears to be dragging economies on that continent into recession.

“Today’s report should be welcome relief in a week of earth-moving headlines out of Europe,” said Todd Schoenberger, managing director at Landcolt Trading.

But with the economy likely to be the central battleground of the 2012 elecion, Republicans on Capitol Hill said the jobless rate still at 9 percent offered another reason for the Obama administration to adopt GOP-sponsored employment and regulatory measures.

“Today’s jobs numbers show little improvement, and with high unemployment forecast in the year ahead, we must set aside our differences and focus on areas of common ground to create jobs,” said House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, in a statement.

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