On edge over jobs outlook [Boston Herald]By Ira Kantor, Boston HeraldMcClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Dec. 07--Hurricane Sandy largely spared U.S. employment numbers last month, but one expert says the looming "fiscal cliff" -- whether resolved or not -- is poised to pack a bigger wallop to jobs figures as the country heads into 2013.
"The fiscal cliff will have more of a bearing going into 2013 as to the magnitude of the direction the economy goes in the remnants of Hurricane Sandy," said Elliot Winer, chief economist for Northeast Analyst Group. "Potentially, what may or may not happen with the fiscal cliff will have a far greater impact."
November saw 146,000 jobs added nationwide, while the unemployment rate dropped two-tenths of a percentage point to 7.7 percent, the lowest since December 2008. However, the labor force lost 350,000 people last month.
Employers also added 49,000 fewer jobs in October and September combined, according to revised figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Congressional leaders have little more than three weeks to go to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff," which would trigger tax increases and federal spending cuts.
Michael Goodman, a University of Massachusetts Dartmouth public policy professor, said the current uncertainty surrounding the fiscal cliff could cause employers to "hold off" on hiring more workers.
"The effect of the fiscal cliff would be more of a delaying from businesses, causing them to wait to make decisions in hiring rather than leading them to lay people off unless they are already being directly affected by it," Goodman said.
Bill Driscoll, New England district president of staffing firm Robert Half International, said the company, which has several Boston offices, is currently devoting "more and more time" to sourcing temporary and full-time candidates to fill open job positions for clients in the region.
Driscoll added if the nation goes over the fiscal cliff, "hiring will go the wrong way and in a hurry."
"If things don't get resolved in Washington, I think we're going to have a major problem," he said.
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