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Lone Bright Spot in Jobs Report: Health Care

U.S. employment plunged by 533,000 jobs in November, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report today that is generating banner headlines on newspaper and business Web sites. U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, who posts a monthly comment on the BLS job report, reacted by urging workers who are worried to contact her agency at 1-877-USA-JOBS to get help from its one-stop career centers.

The lone bright spot in the dismal BLS report was health care. This sector added 34,000 jobs in November and has risen by 369,000 jobs in the past year. It is virtually certain to continue growing rapidly as the U.S. elder population grows with Baby Boomers' retirements, but reform of the U.S. health care system is also expected to be a major focus in the early days of the Obama administration.

BLS also revised total nonfarm employment downward from its previous estimates for September and October, and it said holiday season hiring is not matching patterns seen in previous years. The nation's unemployment rate rose from 6.5 to 6.7 percent in November, with a total of 10.3 million Americans unemployed, BLS said. Unemployment rates are imbalanced; the overalls rates for adult men (6.5 percent) and adult women (5.5 percent) are well below the unemployment rates for teenagers (20.4 percent), blacks (11.2 percent), and Hispanics (8.6 percent), although these "showed little change over the month," BLS reported.

Another ominous sign in the report: The number of people who worked part time for economic reasons kept rising and reached 7.3 million last month, up by 2.8 million in the past year. This category includes people who would like to work full time but were working part time because their hours had been cut back or because they could not find full-time jobs.

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