Friday, December 2, 2011

Are Happy Days Here Again?

Just 48 hours after equity markets soared over news of central banks stepping in to curb the Euro-zone crisis, Americans may be getting some real, good reasons to cheer this holiday season. Finally, we see a breakthrough in the unemployment numbers!

Merry Christmas, President Obama. The topline takeway from the November jobs reports makes for a White House-friendly headline. The unemployment rate in November fell 0.4 percent, from 9.0 to 8.6, a remarkable drop down to a two-year-low after a year in which the percentage of unemployed hardly ever budged. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the U.S. economy also added 120,000 jobs, in line with the trend that has been in place for the past few months.. The broadest measure of unemployment, the U-6 number that counts workers in part-time jobs and those who have given up looking for work, fell from 16.2 to 15.6 percent.

The BLS also revised September (from 158,000 to 210,000,) and October’s ( from 80,000 to 100,000) jobs numbers. In recent months, the BLS revisions have consistently trended towards more positive job creation numbers than previously reported, an encouraging sign indicating that the economy’s fundamentals may be improving faster than contemporaneous data are indicating.

What's really fascinating is that the Labor Department has generally been revising job creation numbers upward throughout the second half of this year. It's really an encouraging sign that despite international economic toil and political tension here at home, the economy is still managing to grow and add jobs...

But is it enough? The workforce participation rate is quite low at 64%, meaning that far too many workers are just giving up on finding another job. This is why we still need more action to get these folks back to work.

Unfortunately, Senate Republicans blocked an extension of President Obama's payroll tax cut that could have helped in doing just that. But wait, don't Republicans like tax cuts? Apparently, they don't if it benefits the 99% instead of just the top 1%.

Still, it's encouraging to see President Obama take an aggressive lead on this and point out who's blocking progress. Now, we just need to see more progress. And we need progress that helps the working class. Today's jobless numbers show that what's been done by Obama so far clearly is working, but also that we still need more action to fully heal this bruised economy of ours.

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