A burst of hiring in December pushed the unemployment rate to its lowest level in nearly three years, giving the economy a boost at the end of 2011.Sure, you could pick these numbers apart, as those running against Obama surely will. But hey, any time more Americans are working, it should be applauded. Some of these jobs were obviously seasonal, but many of them were in sectors like manufacturing & construction where we've needed to see growth. All signs point upward.
The Labor Department said Friday that employers added a net 200,000 jobs last month and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, the lowest since February 2009. The rate has dropped for four straight months.
The hiring gains cap a six-month stretch in which the economy generated 100,000 jobs or more in each month. That hasn't happened since April 2006. For all of 2011, the economy added 1.6 million jobs, better than the 940,000 added in 2010. The unemployment rate averaged 8.9 percent last year, down from 9.6 percent the previous year. Economists forecast that the job gains will top 2.1 million this year.
The December report painted a picture of a broadly improving job market. Average hourly pay rose, providing consumers with more income to spend. The average work week lengthened, a sign that business is picking up and companies may soon need more workers. And hiring was strong across almost all major industries.
Manufacturing added 23,000 jobs, as did the health care industry. Transportation and warehousing added 50,000 jobs. Retailers added 28,000 jobs. Even the beleaguered construction industry added 17,000 workers.
More jobs and higher pay are crucial to helping the economy grow. They could enable shoppers to increase spending, which fuels 70 percent of economic activity.
The economy likely grew at an annual rate of above 3 percent, a healthy pace.
Also, the trend is headed in the right direction here. We went from losing 800,000 jobs in December 2008, to gaining 200,000 last month. No, the economy is hardly "fixed", but considering where we came from, only a
Question: Is this good news for President Obama? How will his GOP adversaries paint this as a bad development?