Report: Unemployment Level Dropped Significantly, But Serious Economic Problems Loom

 The most recent U.S. monthly employment data from the Department of Labor Statistics shows some good news: In December, 200,000 new jobs were added to the economy, and the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent, the lowest since February 2009. At the very least, it may be a boost for Obama's reelection campaign, even though he still has the highest unemployment rate of any president since World War II. But not all the data is positive. 

From Think Progress:

 The private sector added 212,000 jobs, while the public sector lost 12,000. The wider U-6 measure of underemployment fell to 15.2 percent, as did the percentage of unemployed workers who have been out of work for six months or more, which stands at 42.5 percent.

From  Daily Kos:

The BLS jobs report is the product of a pair of surveys, one of business establishments and the Current Population Survey of households. The establishment survey determines how many new jobs were added. The CPS provides data that determine the official "headline" unemployment rate, also known as U3. That's the number that fell to 8.5 percent.

Revisions for payroll employment in October raised the numbers from 100,000 to 112,000 and for November lowered them from 120,000 to 100,000.

An alternative measure of unemployment called U6 includes part-time workers who want full-time work and some but not all of the millions of people who have become too discouraged to look for work. That number fell from 15.6 percent to 15.2 percent.

the Washington Post:

...minority joblessness remained at catastrophic levels: the black unemployment rate was 15.8 percent in December, and the jobless rate for Hispanics was 11 percent.

American, wages, too are at threat. The Washington Post reported:

Trying to persuade locked-out workers in Canada to accept a sharp cut in pay, Caterpillar Inc. is citing lower wages elsewhere. But instead of pointing to the usual models of cheap and pliant labor, such as China or Mexico, it is using a more surprising example: the U.S.

Wage and benefit costs at a Caterpillar rail-equipment plant in LaGrange, Ill., are less than half of those at the company's locomotive-assembly plant in London, Ontario, Caterpillar says.

The big equipment maker's stance illustrates how U.S. manufacturing, until recently given up for dead by many Americans, has become more competitive globally. Though the U.S. is hardly a low-wage country, it has become much more efficient, making it more attractive for global manufacturers. U.S. wage growth has been minimal, and manufacturers have found ways to use more-flexible work practices and increased automation to make the same amount of goods with far fewer people.

Should job creation continue at this pace, the number of employed Americans will not match data from when the recession started until July 2014.
AlterNet / By Kristen Gwynne

Posted at January 6, 2012, 4:34am