On Friday, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released December’s job numbers and revealed that the strong growth we had seen throughout 2014 continues unabated. For the month, the economy added 252,000 jobs while the unemployment rate dropped from 5.8% to 5.6%. For the entire year, the unemployment rate dropped by 1.1 points and the total number of unemployed people was reduced by 1.7 million. The unemployment rate is now at its lowest level since June 2008, months before the financial crisis of 2008
As we have seen in recent months, the job gains once again exceeded market forecasts. In this instance, expectations were the economy would add roughly 240,000 new payroll jobs. The past two months’ numbers were also revised upward. October’s job gains went up to 261,000 from 256,000 while November’s already robust total was increased another 32,000 to 353,000. Overall, 2014 was the nation’s best year for job growth since 1999, when the President of the United States was Bill Clinton.
Per the BLS survey, optimism among the labor force is also improving. In December, there were 740,000 discouraged workers, which was down 177,000 from the same time the previous year. Discouraged workers are those who have stopped trying to find work as they feel there are no jobs available to them. While one would love to see this number down to zero, the fact that it is dropping is another positive sign for the economy.
Jason Furman, the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, issues the following statement after the report was released:
Today’s solid employment report caps off a strong year for the U.S. labor market, which achieved a number of important milestones in 2014. Total job growth last year was the strongest since 1999, while the unemployment rate fell at the fastest pace in three decades. Although nominal wages fell in December, inflation-adjusted wages have generally been rising, and job growth has picked up in sectors that traditionally provide good, middle-class jobs. This week, the President has been laying out his vision to build on this progress by increasing access to community college, supporting the recovery in the housing sector and investing in U.S. manufacturing. On top of these steps, the President looks forward to working with Congress and taking action on his own authority to invest in America’s infrastructure, close tax loopholes and encourage job creation in America, support working families, expand overseas markets for American goods and services, make common sense reforms to the immigration system, and raise the minimum wage.
Just to point out the idiocy of the Republican claim, led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), that the Affordable Care Act is a “job killer,” job growth in the healthcare industry remained sturdy. For December, the industry saw an addition of 34,000 jobs. Throughout 2014, healthcare jobs were added at a rate of 26,000 per month, an increase from 2013, when the industry averaged 17,000 new jobs a month. Of course, 2014 was the first full year of the ACA’s implementation.
With strong job numbers and a rapidly increasing gross domestic product, Republicans now aren’t as eager to slam President Obama about his stagnant economy and weak recovery from the financial crisis of 2008. Instead, seeing consumer confidence up and more people working, GOP leaders have decided to take credit now for something they’ve consistently used to criticize the President for these past six years. Earlier this week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) claimed that the realization that Republicans would be taking over the Senate was the main reason for the surging economy. PolitiFact rated his statement as “False,” pointing out that the improving recovery had been ongoing well before any expectation of a new Republican majority.
While there was a small bit of cloudiness in the jobs report as wages actually dipped a little, there is a lot to be optimistic about regarding the nation’s economy. Overall, consumer confidence is rising, the GDP is growing, gas prices are low and the unemployment rate is falling. Remember, Mitt Romney claimed that if he was elected president, he would have the unemployment rate down to 6% by the end of his first term. Well, Obama was able to get that done in half the time.