Dec 3, 2021 - Economy

A tale of two jobs reports

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics; Chart: Axios Visuals

Whatever you think about the economy, you’ll find something in this morning’s conflicting jobs report to reinforce your views: America's job market is white-hot and the labor market is anemic.

Between the lines: The conflict comes from the two separate surveys the government uses to compile the report.

Be smart: The consensus among economists and market watchers seems to be that the survey of households — showing a booming employment situation, with 1.13 million new jobs last month — is more on-point than the survey of employers, which showed much more weakness.

Why it matters: If we're at or near full employment, then the Federal Reserve should take its foot off the gas pedal and maybe even start thinking about tapping the brakes.

  • If there's still a long way to go before we get back to full employment, on the other hand, then the Fed shouldn't leave the most vulnerable Americans behind.

By the numbers: According to the survey of employers, 210,000 jobs were created in November. That's just one third of the 575,000 new jobs that economists expected.

  • In the household survey, however, the headline unemployment rate plunged to 4.2%, down from 4.6%.

What they're saying: "My sense is the household estimate is closer to the truth around what is happening in the jobs market," tweets RSM US chief economist Joe Brusuelas.

  • America's smartest Fed watcher, The New York Times' Neil Irwin, agrees: "Normally the establishment survey is the better indicator of how things are going month to month, but right now the household survey better aligns with what the rest of the data and anecdotes are telling us."

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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