Of course the addition of 200,000 jobs in December and a slight decline in unemployment are good news. But the economy has a long, long way to go. There are still 13 million unemployed. Millions more want to work but have stopped looking, which, according to the Labor Department, doesn't make them count among the jobless. Hundreds of thousands more are working part time and would like to work full time. Many who work full time make poverty wages.
Even with such "adjustments," unemployment of 8.5 percent is far above the historical average. Unemployment among blacks is 15 percent.
Still, even the year-over-year data (which make seasonal variations irrelevant) look impressive. The economy added 1.6 million jobs from December 2010 to December 2011, according to the latest estimates. Some economists, however, believe this is also exaggerated. The job-count numbers are based on payroll samples via unemployment insurance reports. But those, too, are subject to error. We'll get a much better picture of 2011 next month, when the Labor Department trues up its job-growth with more complete payroll counts.