You can tell a situation has been really bad when something like an 8.6 percent jobless rate is considered good news.
But that’s what it is and that’s how it’s being seen.
There are a couple of reasons for this. First, is that 8.6 percent jobless number for November is fourth-tenths of a percent below October’s 9 percent and it’s the first time in two and a half years that the unemployment rate has fallen under the 9 percent mark.
Second, the net gain of 120,000 jobs that were added last month came because the private sector added 140,000 jobs, compensating for the loss of 20,000 government jobs and a sign that private businesses such as retailers, restaurants and bars felt they needed to add more people for the holiday season. About half of the jobs were created in those areas, with retailers alone employing 50,000 more people.
Over the past three months, the U.S. has been averaging more than 140,000 jobs per month, which is enough to cover population growth, though it usually isn’t enough to cut into the unemployment rate. Still, that’s much better than the previous three months which saw an average of fewer than 85,000 jobs added each month.
The unemployment rate is a not a true indicator of joblessness since it doesn’t take into account those who have stopped actively looking for work — estimates have that number at around 315,000, but at least the reduced rate is a good step in the right direction. With any luck, it’s also an indication that businesses, though obviously still cautious, are seeing a need to add workers. The fact that these are producing private sector jobs and not taxpayer-supported public sector ones is a positive for the economy.
Still, it’s going to be a long haul to get unemployment back to where it was before the Great Recession. The nation’s GDR is growing, albeit at a slow rate, but the recovery — as many economists predicted — has been a jobless one. Companies have been reluctant to commit to adding to their respective work forces because of fears of a double-dip recession and other uncertainties that seem to continually come up, such as the Euro-Zone crisis that’s going on now.
As a result, not much of a dent has been made in the 7 million jobs that evaporated during the recession.
But recovery, as much as anything else, is attitude and confidence. The way the holiday shopping season has opened has been a reason for some confidence. If Europe can clean up its mess without dragging us into it and if Washington can somehow redirect its concerns toward jobs for Americans instead of politicians and party dominance, the U.S. economy might just be able to pick up a little steam.