Why US unemployment numbers in November are underwhelming

Experts caution the national labor market is strong after Friday’s underwhelming jobs report, even as California’s job recovery has lagged behind.
Experts caution the national labor market is strong after Friday’s underwhelming jobs report, even as California’s job recovery has lagged behind. Photo credit Getty Images
By , KCBS Radio

Experts caution the national labor market is strong after Friday's underwhelming jobs report, even as California's job recovery has lagged behind.

The U.S. economy added 210,000 new jobs in November, according to Friday's report, and unemployment fell 0.4% from the previous month. Michael Bernick, the director of California’s labor department, explained why that number missed the mark.

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"We've been averaging about 550,000 jobs per month throughout 2021," Bernick, who’s now an attorney in San Francisco with Duane Morris, told KCBS Radio. "So, we have had very strong job growth throughout this year, there is some expectation we continue at that number."

Nationally, November's 4.2% unemployment rate well below historical averages, Bernick said. State-level figures for November aren't available for another two weeks, but Bernick noted California's recovery has been slower than the rest of the country.

Last month, California had a preliminary unemployment rate of 7.3%, according to federal data. That tied with Nevada for the highest unemployment rate in the country, while the U.S. as a whole had 4.6% unemployment.

"I expected after Sept. 4, when the federal unemployment benefits ended that we would see a very strong return to work throughout the nation and here in California," Bernick said. "And we haven't."

Bernick pointed to concerns about COVID-19, child care and schooling as playing a role in many Californians remaining hesitant to go back out to look for work.

"But there is something going on even beyond that, a sort of reconsideration at all levels that I haven't seen in the last 50 years," he added.

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