What small businesses can take from the December 2011 jobs report

Even small businesses need extra help for the holidays, especially in sales. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released its monthly jobs report on December 2, 2011, and the news was encouraging. The unemployment rate dipped to 8.6 percent, the lowest mark in two years. Plus, 120,000 jobs were added to the economy, which is also a sign the economy is picking up.

What does it all mean? Here are some facts that can help shed light on the labor situation in America for the 2011 holiday season.

Best in two years

The drop in the unemployment rate was a whopping 0.4 percent. Two years ago, during the holiday season in 2009, unemployment was near 10 percent. The sectors that got the highest boost were retail trade, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and health care.

Holiday pick-me-up

Holiday hiring may have had a lot to do with the uptick in people finding work. Between November and December 2010, there was a sharp drop in the unemployment rate, which leveled out in March. This next drop in unemployment, if the pattern continues, may signal a return to better economic times.

Over half a million strong

The number of unemployed people is <a href="http://www.bls.gov/news.release/empsit.nr0.htm">around 13.3 million</a>. That's down 594,000 in November. That means holiday hiring may have spurred more employment. It also means there are still plenty of workers who need jobs.

Not from a lack of work

At the end of October, there were 3.3 million positions open for employers to hire, according to the BLS. That figure was relatively unchanged from September. However, a pre-recession figure put the number of positions open at 4.4 million. Job openings have increased 35 percent since the end of the recession in June 2009. That means there is a shortage of skilled and/or educated labor. Good help may be hard to find in some sectors.

Compared to 2010

As compared to the holiday season last year, the BLS states there were 15.1 million people unemployed. That means nearly 2 million people have gone back to work in just a year. As the economy continues to pick up, small businesses can expect more customers and more income. Along with that comes more hiring.

Watch sales figures

The U.S. Census states retail sales figures in November 2011 were around $399.3 billion. It's just an increase of 0.2 percent from October. However, the figure was 6.7 percent better than this time last year. America is a consumer-based economy. When there are more sales, the economy gets going.

Big picture

For small business, every little bit helps. The unemployment rate still has a way to go to reach pre-recession levels. Yet, many more Americans went back to work in 2011. Small business owners can also be encouraged by the uptick in temporary employment. The Department of Labor states temp agencies have increased hiring by about 20,000 jobs per month over the past five months. If you don't want to hire a permanent employee, going with a temp agency can always be a solution.


The holiday shopping season has once again provided a spark for the U.S. economy. Whether your small business is retail, manufacturing, or construction, all of this hiring is good news. When people have more money to spend, they buy more products, from shoes to houses. People who now have money to earn have to spend it somewhere. That's where your small business comes into play.

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