Employment numbers from December were released today, and they brought welcome news that the unemployment rate has dropped to 8.5%. Indeed, the numbers do seem to be looking better, including the number that counts discouraged jobseekers:
Growth in manufacturing jobs helped offset a loss in government positions, while wages edged higher and the length of the work week also lengthened a bit.
However, an alternative measure of unemployment that counts discouraged workers also dropped sharply. The so-called U-6 number, more encompassing than the headline number the government publicizes, dropped to 15.2 percent from 15.6 percent in November.
The labor-force participation rate, considered another key metric regarding optimism in the workforce, was unchanged at 64 percent. The average duration of unemployment remains near a record high at just under 41 weeks, though the number of those unemployed for 27 weeks or longer fell by 92,000.
Despite the fact that the economy is very tentatively healing, it's important to note that we're nowhere near the numbers Obama promised when he took office. RB over at the Right Sphere provides this telling graph, which illustrates where we'd be without the stimulus, where Obama said we'd be with the stimulus, and where we actually are.
Remember when unemployment was going to be back to 6% by now? And yet here we are, celebrating the fact that it's finally, definitively below 9%.
To paraphrase the man in office now, "we can't wait" for "real change."