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When is bad news really good news?  These days it’s when the news is
less bad than it’s been.

For example, in recent months public technology companies announcing their
quarterly revenues have celebrated smaller declines, saying they hint at a
slowing down of the free fall of this 2009 recession.

And now ADP, the payroll and HR outsourcing
firm, and economists are doing the same with declining employment numbers.

Taking the-glass-is-half-full perspective, ADP
representatives were quick to point out that November marked the eighth
consecutive month in which employment has gradually improved—as measured by
fewer jobs shed.

Indeed, just 169,000 jobs were lost in November 2009 compared with 203,000 in
October, according to ADP. Economists point
out that employment trends typically don’t improve at the same time as other
economic indicators.

“Although overall economic activity is stabilizing, employment usually trails
economic activity, so it is likely to decline for at least a few more months,”
said Joel Prakken, chairman of Macroeconomic Advisers, which helps ADP
analyze the data.

Other data from the ADP Report include the

  • Nonfarm private employment in the service-providing sector fell by 81,000
  • Employment in the goods-producing sector declined by 88,000
  • Employment in the manufacturing sector dropped by 44,000—the smallest decline
    since May 2008
  • Large business (more than 500 workers) saw employment decline by 44,000
  • Medium-size business (50 to 499 workers) saw employment fall by 57,000
  • Small businesses (less than 50 workers) saw employment fall by 68,000

ADP reports that November construction
employment dropped 44,000, the sector’s 34th consecutive monthly decline,
bringing the total decline in construction jobs since its peak in January 2007 to

In the financial services sector, employment dropped 17,000, marking the 24th
consecutive monthly decline.

On the small business side, ADP reports that
the goods-producing sector lost 36,000 jobs and the service-providing sector
lost 32,000 jobs.

However, ADP notes that November’s job
decline among small businesses was the smallest since June 2008.

“Overall economic activity is stabilizing and employment losses among
small-size businesses are diminishing,” said Prakken.