The nation’s unemployment dropped to 6.7% in December from November's 7%, and the economy added 74,000 new jobs last month compared to the 203,000 new jobs in November, according to figures released this morning by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“The unemployment rate has finally dipped below 7%—more than four-and-a-half years since the recession supposedly ended. But that fall was driven mostly by people dropping out of the labor force, not by healthy job creation," says Thea Lee, deputy chief of staff at the AFL-CIO.
It is more critical than ever for Congress to quit dawdling and pass an extension of unemployment insurance immediately. It is a disgrace that 1.3 million Americans lost benefits at the end of December while too many Republicans in Congress remain fixated on irrelevant and counter-productive austerity measures.
The number of long-term unemployed people (those jobless for 27 weeks or more) was little changed at 3.9 million, accounting for 37.7% of the people without jobs. The number of long-term jobless workers has declined by 894,000 over the year. The AFL-CIO is urging Congress to extend the Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits, which the House Republicans allowed to expire at the end of last year.
"Job growth at only 74,000 net new jobs last month is nowhere near robust enough to get the labor market back on track for healthy growth and full employment," says Lee.
Our economy faces two deep fundamental problems that are reflected in jobs statements month after month. Not only do we need much stronger and sustained job growth to provide opportunities for all who want to work, we need to ensure that the jobs we are creating—in sectors such as retail, leisure and hospitality and health care—pay enough to sustain workers and their families.
Among the major worker groups, the unemployment rates for adult men (6.3%) and whites (5.9%) declined in December. The rates for adult women (6.0%), teenagers (20.2%), blacks (11.9%) and Hispanics (8.3%) showed little change. The jobless rate for Asians was 4.1% (not seasonally adjusted), down by 2.5 percentage points over the year.
The biggest job gains were in retail (55,000), professional and business services (19,000), wholesale trade (15,000) and employment in other major industries, including transportation and warehousing, financial activities, leisure and hospitality and government, changed little in December. Manufacturing saw a gain of 9,000 jobs and construction lost 16,000.
The number of federal government workers declined in December, with a loss of 13,000 jobs.