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Murky Jobs Report Conveys Mixed Signals About Economy as Holiday Season Approaches

A traveller wheels her baggage past a now hiring sign outside a bar and restaurant Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Sioux Falls, S.D. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

A lackluster jobs report shows another unimpressive increase amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

With the holiday season fast approaching, analysts say there are plenty of jobs but not enough workers to fill them. The statistics are sending mixed signals ahead of the holidays. That's because they show employers hired fewer employees in November than the prior month, yet show a surge in the number of workers taking jobs. 

Economists say this ambiguous scenario paints an uncertain economic outlook. 

So far this year, U.S. jobs have risen each month. Dismal numbers in September rebounded with a three-fold gain in October, totaling more than 500,000. Economists were hoping for another half-million increase in November – although the result of only 210,000 additional jobs dashed those hopes. President Biden told the nation Friday our economy is stronger than it was a year ago with a historic drop in unemployment. 

In trying to inject a positive note, Biden pointed to the growth of a different kind in regard to start-ups. 

"Applications for new small businesses are up 30 percent compared to the pandemic," the President said. 

Industries seeing the biggest gains in November include Professional and business services (+90,000), Transportation and warehousing (+50,000), Construction (+31,000), Manufacturing (31,000). 

"Even after accounting for rising prices, the typical average American family has more money in their pockets than last year," Biden said, referring to stats showing the average hourly wage is up about 4.1 percent this year. 

However, Freedom Works Economist Stephen Moore says it's important to do the math if you want to see how hard inflation is hitting middle-class Americans. 

"The problem is inflation is up about 6.2 percent for the year," Moore said. "So we see workers are effectively seeing the purchasing power of their paychecks shrink." 

The number of people working is still down by about 4 million from pre-pandemic levels. The disappointing growth comes as COVID-19 cases begin to rise in some parts of the country with the uncertainty of Omicron overshadowing the holidays. 

The Federal Reserve is concerned Omicron could exacerbate inflation further hampering the recovery of the economy. 

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