Based on the December jobs report the Labor Department released Friday morning, the U.S. economy is continuing to show increased signs of life. The Black unemployment rate increased slightly to 15.8 from 15.5 percent in November. The overall unemployment rate, however, dipped from 8.6 percent to 8.5 percent, the lowest since February of 2009.
The Labor Department also reported that total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 200,000 in December. New requests for unemployment fell to 372,000 for the week ending Dec. 31 and the four-week average for claims is at its lowest in more than three years. In other good news, the ADP National Employment Report found that private-sector employers added 325,000 jobs in December.
“This is the first time in years that ADP has reported the addition of more than 300,000 jobs, which is an indication that the job market is really beginning to turn around,” said Georgia Tech University economist Thomas Boston. In addition, he said, a growth in online and storefront retail sales and a contained European debt crisis also are reasons for optimism.
“These positive economic indicators signal that the economy is braced for some significant growth,” Boston said.
The downside, he added, is that as the economy gets better, more people re-enter the labor market and make initial unemployment claims and the unemployment number goes up. But he predicts that hiring has been so good that the overall number will continue to go down.
The number of long-term unemployed (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 5.6 million and accounted for 42.5 percent of the unemployed.
While acknowledging that the national unemployment rate is going down, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said that the economy is not recovering quickly enough and placed the blame squarely at President Obama’s feet. According to Priebus, Obama has made the economy worse by “imposing a massive regulatory regime, pushing job-killing mandates, and racking up trillions of dollars in debt.”
“He has no long term vision to fix the economy and no comprehensive plan to get Americans working again. All he offers are occasional gimmicks that create nothing more than campaign photo-ops,” Priebus said.
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