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Healthcare's Next Trick: Economic Stabilizer

Chelsea Rice, for HealthLeaders Media, December 10, 2012

Concern that the November federal jobs report would show weak numbers due to Hurricane Sandy's impact in the Northeast and Atlantic regions proved to be unfounded Friday.  

Despite the storm, unemployment dropped from 7.8 to 7.7 percent, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.  And, BLS said, the storm "did not substantively impact the national employment and unemployment estimates."

Total employment rose by 146,000 in November, showing "relatively strong growth" said Karl Smith, a professor of economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Although November's job growth is slightly under the monthly average for 2012 (151,000), Smith estimates this is probably due to a statistical variation and does not represent a slowdown in job creation. This preliminary number will probably be updated to show a number closer to the monthly average, he says.

Because of a "smoothing" practice that takes place when collecting this data, the BLS report does not paint the most detailed picture of where the economy stands in terms of labor, says Smith. He estimates unemployment to be closer to the recently reported Gallup figure of 7.4%. The BLS report is often "behind the curve" by 18 months, he says, and employment figures are one of the slowest indicators of the economy's recovery.

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