According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' latest employment report, the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent in December, the lowest level since February 2009, when Congress approved the stimulus package. Discounting a 42,200 job gain reported for couriers — likely the result of seasonal adjustment, not real job growth — the economy created 158,000 jobs in December, in line with expectations.
Pulling out the courier jobs, growth has averaged 145,000 per month over the last four months, which is somewhat better than the 90,000-100,000 a month needed to keep pace with the growth of the labor force, but certainly not rapid enough to explain a 0.6 percentage point drop in unemployment. At this pace, we may not get back to pre-recession levels of unemployment until 2027.
CEPR Co-Director Dean Baker will take part in a live Q&A on the Washington Post at 1 p.m. today on the jobs numbers.