The decline in unemployment numbers appears to be holding, at least according to the most recent report from the U.S. Department of Labor. December’s national jobless rate was 8.5 percent, down from 9.1 percent in August.
And while some remain cynical—unemployment is measured by the number of people actively looking for new work, leaving out those who’ve given up—the fact that the economy added 200,000 net new jobs in December has given cause for cautious optimism. Sectors that saw improvement include transportation, construction, retail, manufacturing, and health care. Altogether, 2011 saw 1.6 million net new jobs, compared to 940,000 in 2010. Many analysts still express concern about the year to come, however, questioning whether consumers will be able to maintain spending—not to mention the fact that more than 13 million Americans are still jobless. On top of this, in direct contrast to the myth of America as a place where one can pull oneself up by the bootstraps, recent studies on economic mobility have ranked the United States as less mobile than comparable nations. According to an article in the New York Times, “42 percent of American men raised in the bottom fifth of incomes stay there as adults.”
Did you find a job in the last quarter of 2011? Are you feeling hopeful that the recession is letting up, or do things look the same from where you sit?
Heidi Shierholz, labor economist, Economic Policy Institute
Matt DeBord, author, KPCC business and economy blog “The DeBord Report”