The choir of typically-cautious market analysts reviewing the new jobs report, in which unemployment fell to a three-year low of 8.5 percent, are positively glowing at signs the economy is growing at a fast-than-expected clip. The U.S. added 200,000 jobs in December, according to the Labor Department, dropping the unemployment rate to 8.5 percent, the lowest level since February 2009. Politically-speaking, some of President Obama's critics have a convenient explanation for the positive report. (On the campaign trail, Rick Santorum said the unemployment rate is dropping because of "optimisim that Republicans will take the White House" reports Politico's Dave Catanese). But market analysts aren't thinking about the immediate political ramifications. It's the numbers that matter.
"This is a good solid report, and the big message here is that 2011 was much better than 2010," Scot Melland, CEO of Dice Holdings, tells CNN Money. "We're headed in the right direction."
“You got the trifecta -- more people working, wages up and the average work week up,” Stuart Hoffman, chief economist at PNC Financial Services Group Inc., tells Bloomberg. “You can’t really argue that that isn’t a sign of significant improvement in the job market.”
“People were very much thinking that the sky was falling,” Tom Porcelli, an economist at RBC Capital Markets, tells The New York Times. “It’s no small victory that we’re up here, even with all these headwinds.”
“The tide is beginning to come back in,” James Glassman, senior economist at JP Morgan Chase & Co, told the radio show Bloomberg Surveillance. “We’ve got a long way to go. This is all positive, though, that we’re actually moving forward, and that’s an important trend.”
As The Times notes, the positive labor report follows a string of good economic news this month "when consumer confidence rose, manufacturing came in strong and small businesses showed signs of life. It was the sixth consecutive month that the economy added at least 100,000 jobs — not enough to restore employment to pre-recession levels, but enough, perhaps, to cheer President Obama as he enters an election year."
For the GOP presidential candidates, that's not the desired interpretation. Newt Gingrich's campaign has issued a statement
following the report slamming the president's policies. “Three full years into the Obama presidency, and there are still 1.7 million fewer Americans going to work today than there were on Obama’s Inauguration Day," read the statement. To liberal observers, gauging how many net jobs were created or lost during Obama's time in office is a ridiculous measure. "Though today’s numbers are cause for cautious optimism," writes The Washington Post's Greg Sargent
, "there’s no denying that jobs have not been created as fast as we would like on Obama’s watch. But come on — the citation of jobs lost before Obama’s policies passed as evidence that those policies were a failure is just ludicrously, cosmically absurd, and should not be allowed to stand."
One thing's clear, if it's up to the analysts to drive the narrative how the economy is doing, it's not going to be a message that aligns with Republican candidates' stump speeches. “This is the real thing," Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics tells The Times. “This is finally the economy throwing off the shackles of the credit crunch.”
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