Job losses slow but still higher than expected

12/02/2009 9:02 am EST

Focus: STOCKS

Jim Jubak

Founder and Editor, JubakPicks.com

Another 169,000 jobs lost in November.

About the best thing you can say about the report from ADP Employer Services released this morning is that the U.S. economy is shedding jobs at a slower rate. The 169,000 jobs lost in November is the smallest drop since July 2008. Revised figures for October showed 195,000 jobs lost.

On a first read, the stock market doesn’t seem impressed by the trend toward slowing jobs losses.

 Before the stock market opened this morning, futures based on the Standard & Poor’s 500, which were forecasting a strong opening after yesterday’s rally before the numbers were released, pulled back to show a flat open after the report.

The ADP survey isn’t especially reliable, is subject to big revisions, and tracks only private employment. The more comprehensive government report on jobs and unemployment from the Department of Labor comes out on Friday. Right now economists are expecting that report will show the official unemployment rate holding steady at 10.2% with job losses of just 123,000.

But any difference between expectations for the ADP numbers and the numbers themselves can move the market and that is what has happened this morning. Economists were forecasting that the ADP numbers would show a loss of 150,000 jobs so the 169,000 actually lost, although down from October, came as a disappointment.

A second report this morning confirms the trend in the ADP survey—the economy is still losing jobs but at a slower rate. Employers announced the fewest planned layoffs in November—just 50,349—since the Great Recession began two years ago, according to job placement company Challenger, Gray & Christmas. In November 2008 that number stood at 181,671.

Improvement, yes. But the economy is still a long way away from actually creating jobs.

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