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Unemployment numbers skewed by holiday season surge

The 2011 holiday season brought more than just seasonal cheer, as the U.S. economy looked to be on the road to recovery, adding 200,000 jobs to help th...

Freddie Pierce
|Jan 9|magazine6 min read

The 2011 holiday season brought more than just seasonal cheer, as the U.S. economy looked to be on the road to recovery, adding 200,000 jobs to help the national unemployment rate dip to 8.5 percent.

However, analysts have tempered their expectations for 2012 thanks to some of the news that broke in the supply chain industry late last week. According to CNNMoney, more than 40,000 new jobs created at the end of last year were couriers or messengers in demand because of the peak shipping seasons.

It’s unlikely many of those jobs will become permanent.

“People are happy to get those jobs for the time they have them, but come January, they’re out looking for jobs again,” Dean Baker, the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, told CNNMoney.

“The problem is that you have a lot of reporters touting this as a really strong report, and if that creates a view among policy makers that the economy is on the mend, then that undermines the need to do anything.”

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UPS, for example, hired 55,000 temporary workers to help manage the stressful holiday season supply chain. According to the CNN’s report, however, “many of those jobs have already evaporated.”

According to Kara Ross, spokeswoman for UPS, many of the temporary new hires were drivers, truck loaders and unloaders and driver helpers. But will those new hires keep their positions deep in 2012?

“It just depends on our volume loads,” Ross said. “Some of them we might keep on; some of them we might not.”

UPS competitor FedEx faces a similar dilemma, according to spokeswoman Carla Boyd. According to Boyd, the Memphis-based logistics company hired 20,000 seasonal workers for the holiday season, an increase of 17,000 compared to 2010.

“There’s an incredible holiday surge,” Boyd told CNNMoney. “We had our busiest day in history on Dec. 12.”

Given the skepticism of many in the economy, however, the economy faces an uphill battle to continue the holiday season surge in 2012.

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