Monday, January 9, 2012

Reuters Reports: Unemployment at a Near Three-Year Low

Last week, Reuters reported that U.S. employment growth has accelerated this past month, resulting in a significant drop in the jobless rate.  This drop has led the U.S. to a near three-year low of 8.5% and is a strong piece of evidence that the economy is picking up its momentum.

But with every piece of good news comes a piece of not-so-good news.  In the Reuters report last week, both were sporadically incorporated.  So we'll ask you that ever-popular question: what do you want first--the good news or the bad news? 


  • The unemployment rate fell from a revised 8.7% in November to its lowest level since February 2009
  • The dollar rose to a near 16-month high against the euro
  • The economy added 1.6 million jobs last year (the most since 2006)
  • The jobless rate has dropped .6% in the last four months (from its highest peak at 10% in October 2009)
  • Private sector added 1.9 million jobs in 2011 
  • Hourly earnings rose four cents 


  • Employment remains approximately 6.1 million below its pre-recession level 
  • It will take 2 and a half years to win those jobs back
  • There are 4.3 unemployed people for every job opening
  • 23.7 million Americans are either out of work or underemployed
  • Government employment fell 280,000 in 2011

Industries have been recovering from the recession at drastically different speeds.  The construction industry, for instance has seen payroll increases as mild weather has boosted groundbreaking for new homes.  Transportation, warehousing, manufacturing and factory employment jumped significantly in 2011. Retail and temporary hiring, however, have experienced slowed payroll growth.  

What does all of this mean?  "The labor market is healing," says Diane Swonk, chief economist at Mesirow Financial.  "...but we still have a long way to go to recoup the losses we have endured.  We may be close to a tipping point where gains can become more self-feeding."  

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