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On the Economy

Jobless rate falls to 8.5 percent

Employers added 200,000 jobs  in the month of December

By Jared BernsteinGuest blogger / January 6, 2012

This chart shows the unemployment rate over the past two years. Rates have been declining steadily since June 2011.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Employers added 200,000 jobs on net last month, while the jobless rate ticked down to 8.5%, according to this morning’s jobs report from the BLS.  That’s a bit better than what was expected, reflecting moderate but broad labor demand across almost all sectors of the private job market–the public sector continues to be a notable sore spot.

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Before joining the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities as a senior fellow, Jared was chief economist to Vice President Joseph Biden and executive director of the White House Task Force on the Middle Class. He is a contributor to MSNBC and CNBC and has written numerous books, including 'Crunch: Why Do I Feel So Squeezed?'

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All told, a solid report, with most industries adding jobs, the work week expanding a bit, and the jobless rate revealing a slow but steady trend down–see figure.

With December’s data, we now have full year 2011 numbers.  Payrolls added 1.6 million jobs last year, the best showing since 2006.  Private sector payrolls were up 1.9 million, the most jobs added in the private sector since 2005.

In other words, the labor market is improving, and has a bit of trend going for it–employers remain cautious–hiring can’t be called robust–but it has been slow and steady.

Securing, sustaining, and building on these gains, particularly in the face of economic risk factors–Europe, oil, fading stimulus–must become the top goal of policy makers who have heretofore been way too cavalier about this primary responsibility.

More to come…

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best economy-related bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on jaredbernsteinblog.com.

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