IIP Staff Writer
The U.S. economy is continuing to improve slowly, with a new report showing the unemployment rate at 8.5 percent for December 2011 — a 0.2 percentage points drop from November 2011 and the lowest level since February 2009.
“The economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” said Alan Krueger, chairman of the president’s Council of Economic Advisers.
The employment report, released January 6 by the U.S. Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed private sector growth of at least 200,000 jobs in December, well ahead of what many analysts had predicted. This marked 22 consecutive months of private sector job growth for a total addition of 3.2 million jobs during that period.
Krueger said that more than 1.9 million private sector jobs were added during 2011 alone, more than in any year since 2005.
“Nonetheless, we need faster growth to put even more Americans back to work,” he said.
At an appearance in Washington, President Obama said that after losing more than 8 million jobs in the 2007–2009 recession, the United States has more work to do for a full economic recovery. But “after shedding jobs for more than a decade, our manufacturing sector is also adding jobs, two years in a row now,” Obama said.
The 18-month recession began in December 2007 and ended in June 2009, and was the longest and deepest recession of the post-World War II era, according to a report by Marc Labonte, an economic policy specialist with the U.S. Congressional Research Service.
“The economy is moving in the right direction,” Obama said. “We’re creating jobs on a consistent basis.”
Krueger commended job increases in transportation and warehousing, which saw a jump of more than 50,000 jobs, and health care and social assistance, which added 28,700 jobs. Retail trade, manufacturing, leisure and hospitality, mining and construction all saw job gains as well.
Government employment changed little during December 2011, but fell by 280,000 during the year, according to the Labor Department statistics.