Unemployment drops to 8.5%

Slowly but surely, we’re starting to see a rebound in the US economy. Manufacturing is picking up, consumers are spending more and companies are starting to hire. The unemployment rate has now dropped to 8.5% after the economy added 200,000 jobs in December.

The jobs report builds on a several new indicators pointing toward an economy on the upswing.

The government reported Thursday that claims for unemployment benefits declined in the final week of December, moving the average over the past four weeks to its lowest level in more than three years.

The Institute for Supply Management reported this week that its employment index for December was 55.1, the highest reading since June. A reading above 50 means that more companies are creating jobs than cutting them.

The nation’s factories have added more than 300,000 jobs since the beginning of 2010 — about 13 percent of what was lost during the recession — marking the first sustained increase in manufacturing employment since 1997, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Auto sales in December were up, continuing their substantial improvement from the summer. And for all of 2011, vehicle sales rose 10 percent.

The auto numbers are critical. For example, Chrysler sales keep increasing and the company is adding jobs.

The economy has added jobs for 15 consecutive months so there is reason for continued optimism.

If you’ve been out of work and have given up, go back and start looking again.


Unemployment falls in the states

The good economic news continues.

Unemployment rates fell in 43 states in November, the most states to report such declines in eight years.

The falling state rates reflect the brightening jobs picture nationally. The U.S. unemployment rate fell sharply in November to 8.6%, lowest since March 2009. The economy has generated 100,000 or more jobs five months in a row — first time that’s happened since 2006, before the Great Recession.

Only three states reported higher unemployment rates in November, the Labor Department said Tuesday. Four showed no change.

Other good news today came in the form of housing starts. People aren’t buying home so many people are renting. Now the construction market is responding as more apartment buildings are going to be built. This might be good news for construction workers around the country.


Jobless claims continue downward trend

Are we finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel?

Last month the unemployment rate dipped to 8.6%, and now we continue to see better numbers as it relates to weekly jobless claims.

The number of U.S. workers filing new applications for unemployment benefits fell to the lowest level in three-and-a-half years last week, the latest indication that a weak labor market is improving.

Initial jobless claims fell by 19,000 to a seasonally adjusted 366,000 in the week ended Dec. 10, the Labor Department said Thursday. Economists surveyed by Dow Jones Newswires had forecast claims would climb by 9,000 to 390,000.

“This is unexpectedly great news,” said Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “If claims can remain at this level, payroll growth will strengthen markedly within a month or so.”

For the week ended Dec. 3, claims were revised up slightly to 385,000 from an originally reported 381,000. Still, new claims have fallen by 19,000 two weeks in a row.

The four-week moving average of new jobless claims, closely watched by economists because it smooths out volatile weekly data, dropped last week by 6,500 to 387,750. That is the lowest level since July 2008.

The four-week average has remained below 400,000 for five consecutive weeks, one sign the economy is adding more jobs than it is shedding.

If you’ve been looking for a job but have become discouraged, now is the time to get back out there and redouble your efforts. The economy has some momentum, and economic optimism is returning. Right now Europe seems like the most important headwind for economic growth, but conditions here at home are getting better. Car sales are improving and that is one of the factors driving economic activity.


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