US jobs recovery surprises economists


THE US jobs recovery gathered pace as a measure of private-sector hiring surged in December and claims for unemployment benefits fell, suggesting the battered labour market may continue to strengthen in 2012.

The ADP National Employment Report’s December job tally of 325,000 surprised economists who had expected a gain of roughly half that size. It was also above the 204,000 private jobs added in November.

Many economists struck a note of caution, though, saying the number may have been distorted by seasonal factors. Joel Prakken, of Macroeconomic Advisers, which helps produce the survey, told reporters job readings tend to be inflated at year end as employers keep workers on payrolls for accounting reasons, and the reading could be revised lower. “Certainly we’re getting some more encouraging news on the jobs market, but we have to be very aware that it does reflect a very volatile period of the year – the holiday season and the days following the new year,” said Bernard Baumohl, chief global economist at Economic Outlook Group in Princeton, New Jersey.

Markets did indeed appear to take the data with a grain of salt. US stock indexes were lower while safe-haven US government bond prices edged up. – (Reuters)