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Additional Austerity Will Not Further the Economic Recovery

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Despite uncertainty regarding the fiscal showdown in December, the U.S. economy once again proved its resilience last month by adding 155,000 jobs, according to new figures released Friday by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The economy is still in a weak recovery period, however, and the prospect of further spending cuts remains the biggest threat to robust economic growth. President Barack Obama and Congress should focus on accelerating job growth through policies that strengthen the middle class—such as investments in infrastructure, education, and science—and reject any calls for additional austerity in the short term.

The private sector has now added new jobs for each of the past 34 months, indicating that steady progress is being made in the recovery from the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The unemployment rate in December held steady at 7.8 percent but has dropped significantly from a year ago, when it was 8.5 percent.

In further good news, the construction sector, which was hit especially hard by the Great Recession, is showing signs of recovery, adding 30,000 jobs in December after having lost almost 2 million jobs since the beginning of the Great Recession. In addition, employment increased in manufacturing, as well as in several other sectors, including health care and eating and drinking establishments.

As Friday’s jobs report makes clear, the economy continues to head in the right direction—though not fast enough, meaning it still faces a number of risks. Given the deep jobs hole the Great Recession put us in, the pace of the recovery is far too slow.

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