A very in-line-with-consensus-estimates jobs report today as the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 155,000 new payroll jobs in December and an unemployment rate holding steady at 7.8 percent. Now that there's no presidential election for a few years we can perhaps stop seeing the monthly jobs numbers as such a political footballl. What we've got here is an economy that just keeps plugging along unremarkably. Which would be great if the background conditions were great, but in fact background conditions were pretty bad so "plugging along unremarkably" leads to a perpetuation of outcomes in which the long-term unemployment situation will probably keep getting worse.
As ever, I exhort people to pay at least as much attention to the revisions to past months' data as to the initial estimate of the most recent month. New information is fun, but accurate information is what matters and it's the revisions that are accurate. October went largely unrevised. We now stand at +137,00 jobs instead of +138,000. But November saw a very nice upward revision to +161,000 from +146,000.
For fans of data revisions—and I know you're out there—next month's report will feature an important re-benchmarking of seasonal adjustment factors that could change the picture a lot.
But until then, make no mistake—this economy is growing and has been growing steadily for months It's not booming and it's not undoing the damage of the prolonged labor market weakspot, but it's definitely growing and the situation is definitely improving. The tragedy is that it isn't improving fast enough to deliver help to the people who need it most. But new people entering the workforce in 2013 are looking at a much brighter situation than the cohorts that came before them in 2012, 2011, 2010, or God help them 2009.