The December employment number released this morning indicates that U.S. job growth remains tepid. Total employment increased by only 157,000 over the number of individuals employed in November. According to U.S. Census Bureau’s estimates the nation’s resident population grew during the same period by 221,000 or about 50 percent faster than the growth in employment. Wages increased by less than two tenths of a percent or at about two thirds the rate of monthly inflation over the past twelve months.

Altogether the weak jobs and earnings performance in December casts a growing shadow over whether ordinary households in America will have sufficient income to start reducing the unprecedented levels of household debt and still have the purchasing power to permit continued economic growth.

For 2004 as a whole, employment grew by 2.2 million or by less than two tenths of a percent per month. That is an extremely weak performance for a period that has been labeled an “economic recovery.” The total level of employment reported by the Labor Department for December 2004 of 132,266,000 is 175,000 fewer jobs than the nation had in December 2000. There is little data that does not suggest that the U.S. economy has slipped into neutral.

Read Scott Lilly's additional comments on CNBC statement.

Scott Lilly is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress.

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