The struggling U.S. economy created 200,000 jobs in December, as the unemployment rate dropped from 8.7 percent to 8.5 percent. That's good news, but it must be kept in perspective.
Last month, employers added extra hands to help deal with a busy holiday selling season. The improvements also were modest: Although December was the sixth straight month in which the economy created more than 100,000 jobs, it needs to generate 150,000 jobs a month just to keep up with new entries to the labor market.
And even though the 8.5 percent jobless rate is the lowest in three years, 13 million Americans still are looking for work. Many more have accepted part-time jobs or have ended their job searches altogether out of frustration.
Even if the nation's sustains a job-creation rate of 200,000 or more a month, it will take a long time to erase the jobs deficit. In Europe, the 17 euro-zone countries reported a 10.3 percent unemployment rate for November.
Still, President Obama is monitoring the improved job figures and watching the Republican presidential field narrow itself. Things are beginning to look somewhat better for America and thus for the President's re-election prospects.
Republican lawmakers can be expected not to relent in their efforts to make Mr. Obama look bad on the economy, to give themselves a campaign issue. To depress the next round of jobs numbers, they might have to encourage some of their "job-creating" campaign donors to fire people this month.
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