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Jobless Rate Unchanged in December, Economy Adds 155,000 Jobs

Jobless Rate Unchanged in December, Economy Adds 155,000 Jobs

The nation’s economy added 155,000 new jobs in December and the jobless rate was unchanged from November’s adjusted 7.8%, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The 155,000 jobs created reflect 34 straight months of positive job growth.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka says the new jobs are "sufficient to keep the official unemployment rate steady at 7.8 percent, but not enough to make a dent in long-term unemployment."

Deep problems remain in our economy and labor market -- under-employment remains at 14.4 percent, wages are barely growing, and too many workers are seeing their skills atrophy as they sit on the sideline of our economy. Our urgent focus must be on investment that creates jobs and lays the foundation for sustainable growth and shared prosperity.

Almost nothing would be more foolish right now than a trillion dollars of austerity, as the sequester would require, or the Fix the Debt CEO plan to undermine America’s already threadbare social safety net. As the European experience shows, austerity kills recoveries. And threats to take the economy hostage by refusing to extend the debt ceiling extension would clearly endanger our economy and our country.

Economic Policy Institute (EPI) economist Heidi Shierholz says:

This morning’s jobs report was status quo....The problem, of course, is that a status quo report in today’s labor market represents an ongoing jobs crisis. The jobs deficit—the number of jobs lost since the recession officially began five years ago plus the number of jobs we should have added just to keep up with the normal growth in the potential labor force—remains nearly 9 million.

John Ryding, chief economist at RDQ Economics, was a bit more positive and told The New York Times:  

It’s not a home-run report by any stretch, but it’s constructive. It’s another month of fairly stable, solid, moderate job creation.

Robert Borosage, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, said that the numbers were a warning to Washington:

Now every working American will face an increase in their payroll taxes. Spending at the Federal level will continue to slow. With the winding down of the Recovery Act and the cuts imposed by the last debt ceiling deal, Congress and the President should stop focusing on deficits and start working to create jobs and get Americans back to work. 

...

I urge Congress to repeal the sequester and lift the debt ceiling. Republicans in Congress are threatening to not pay the bills for the money they already spent — creating another default crisis. Republicans in Congress are actually going to the mat for the right to kill our nation’s credit. That won’t lead to new jobs. It will hurt the economy.

The biggest job gains were in health care (45,000), food services (38,000), construction (30,000) and manufacturing (25,000). Employment in retail trades was essentially unchanged in December, while there was a slight decrease in public-sector jobs.

The jobless rate for adult women rose to 7.3% from November’s 7.2% and for African Americans it was up to 14%, compared to last month’s 13.2%, while the unemployment rate for adult men remained unchanged at 7.2%. The jobless rate for teenagers (23.5%), Hispanics (9.6%) and white workers showed little change from the previous month.

The number of long-term unemployed (those who are jobless for 27 weeks or more) remained at 4.8 million. The fiscal cliff agreement President Obama signed this week continues the federal long-term unemployment insurance benefits program. Christine Owens, executive director of the National Employment Law Project (NELP), says:

The economy is improving, but we’re still not creating jobs fast enough for the 12.2 million unemployed looking to get back to work.

For the year, the jobless rate has dropped from 8.5% in December 2011 to this December’s 7.8%, but to underscore Shierholz, the share of people who have jobs dipped slightly from 64.0% to 63.6%.

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