The U.S. economy added 200,000 jobs in December to push the national unemployment rate to a three-year low.
Unemployment fell for the fourth consecutive month to 8.5 percent, its lowest level since June 2009, while the number of unemployed persons also fell, to 13.1 million. The unemployment rate has declined by 0.6 percentage point since August.
Job gains occurred in transportation and warehousing, retail trade, manufacturing, health care, and mining. Manufacturing employment expanded by 23,000, following four months of little change.
These are the kind of numbers we need to see, month after month, to bring employment and the economy back.
December tends to be tricky in terms of seasonal adjustment, because of year-to-year fluctuations in holiday-related hiring. But the December surge is supported by a string of favorable weekly reports on unemployment claims.
Job growth remains disproportionately heavy at the lower end of the job market. Many workers remain underemployed in terms of their skills, or because they are part-time or in temporary positions.
Manufacturing and higher-end business services - sectors with good jobs - have grown, too, but they also suffered terrible losses in the recession. And government has bled jobs fairly consistently, correcting for Census hiring in 2009-10.
What’s important now is to put together a series of months at least this good. That will get a lot of people into work, bring down the unemployment rate, and build consumer confidence and consumer spending.