There is no clearer picture that the U.S. economy is a see-saw than in the job numbers. After months of steady gains in job opportunities and hiring, November reminds us all there are bumps on the asphalt playground.
On the plus side, job vacancies rose modestly by 47,000 in November for technical and health-care-related occupations, according to a monthly report from The Conference Board.
"In November, demand for workers continued to be positive, albeit moving at a disappointingly slow pace for the last few months," said June Shelp, vice president at The Conference Board. "November was a surprisingly quiet month throughout the nation, with most states posting small gains/losses in advertised vacancies."
After an October that saw an increase of 14,700 job openings in computer and mathematical science vacancies, November saw slimmer gains of 2,500, according to data in The Conference Board report. Computer and math job categories have the lowest supply-and-demand rates of any occupation at .26 more vacancies than unemployed people.
Management job vacancies saw a decline of nearly 11,000 opportunities last month--a huge fluctuation from October that saw increase of 20,200 management opportunities.
In similar vein to the management category, unemployment in the United States rose last month. After steady declines in claims in 2010, November saw a climb in the unemployment rate to 9.8 percent. Temporary jobs and the health-care sector added jobs, but full time retail jobs declined, according to data released by the U.S. Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The silver lining in IT continues to be for consultants and contractors. Here is how the BLS characterized what is happening in that area:
"Within professional and business services, employment in temporary help services continued to increase in November (+40,000) and has risen by 494,000 since September 2009."
Economic analysts with a macro focus on the total jobs picture are not thrilled with the overall numbers. October was good month for hiring, but the momentum did not sustain. Zacks Investment Research put the overall picture into larger perspective on the financial blog Seeking Alpha:
"There are now 15.1 million unemployed Americans, and nearly 42% of these have been out of work 6 months or longer. The labor force grew by 103,000 workers--indicating an improvement in the jobs outlook among workers--but the number of unemployed actually grew by 276,000 for the month."