Optimistic Jobs Report Masks Persistent Weaknesses

The employment data released today show that the labor market ended 2011 on a better note with 200,000 new jobs. But the data also show that substantial trouble spots remain such as high unemployment rates among many population groups, stubbornly high long-term unemployment, and continued public-sector job losses. These require public policy attention to finally improve the lives of millions of American families in 2012.

The labor market is clearly moving in the right direction. It added 200,000 new jobs in December 2011, well above the average job growth of 131,000 per month for the rest of 2011. And the unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent in December 2011, its lowest level since February 2009 and well below the 9.4 percent unemployment rate one year ago in December 2010. 

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This article was originally published in MarketWatch.