03/18/2010 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

December Jobs Report: Santa Brings More Pain

The Bureau of Labor Statistics has spoken on jobs and the word is: not so fast. We wanted so badly to see a plus sign on the job creation front in December, but alas, it was not to be. Santa slashed 85,000 positions, but hark -- there was a bit of good news. The previous two month's were revised. October saw more job losses (-111,000 to -127,000), but November moved from -11,000 to +4,000.

So in fact, there was POSITIVE job growth for the first time in nearly two years, but it actually already occurred. Try not to linger on the fact that when you look at October and November together, total job losses increased by 1,000 or that for all of 2009, the US economy lost 4.2 million jobs -- I'm trying to be positive and here's why: the job situation is vastly improved from a year ago.

In the fourth quarter of 2009, employment losses averaged 69,000 per month, compared to job losses of 691,000 a month in the first quarter of last year. Remember last January, when the economy lost 741,000 jobs? Now that was scary.

Still, there's no getting around the fact that the employment situation stinks and that it's really hard to find a job. My favorite employment number to follow is the "U-6", which is defined as everyone who is unemployed, plus part-time workers plus those who are "marginally attached" (aka disgruntled workers). The rate of unemployment for that group ticked up to 17.3% from 17.2% in November.

This brings me to the recent Conference Board report, which said that only 45% of Americans were satisfied with their jobs. As means of comparison, in 1987, 61% said they were satisfied. Take heart, though. The survey's authors say that it's not the fault of The Great Recession. "Unlike the economy, this increasing worker unhappiness is not cyclical...job satisfaction numbers have shown a consistent downward trend." Um, not making me feel better here.

Let's regroup -- here is what you need to know about the job market: new job loss is tapering off, it's still hard to find a job and this scenario is likely to persist at least for the first half of the year. Happy New Year!

Image by Flickr User Per Ola Wiberg, CC 2.0