The unemployment rate dropped to 8.5 percent in December, down 0.2 points from 8.7 percent in November.
For a change, the reporting of the number is not accompanied by a warning that most of the apparent improvement is coming from discouraged workers leaving the workforce. The Labor Department says the economy added about 200,000 jobs. Nor is the hiring mostly by the census or other short-term government program. In fact, the WashPost reports, total public sector employment edged down slightly, which means private sector hiriing produced the whole gain. ADP, a payroll processing company that sees the jobs picture mostly through the payrolls of small and medium-sized business, estimates of 325,000 private-sector jobs in December, a number that the NYTimes termed “whopping.”
And consumer confidence made a significant move up.
The news will, of course, be washed through the political spin cycle, with Dem asserting that President Obama’s policies are responsible and Repubs minimizing the gain or attributing it employers confidence that they, the Repubs, are holding the line against higher taxes and spending.
And it is, of course, still a very high unemployment rate by post-Depression historical standards. It would take many more similar months to get to a good place. But it’s a significant stride in the right direction and for the moment can we just say…