Shrinking Job Opportunities: The Challenge of Putting Americans Back to Work

Today’s employment report provided some optimism for job seekers, as the unemployment rate continued to edge down and expansions in employer payrolls continued to gather steam. Although still too high, the unemployment rate fell again to 8.5 percent and has now fallen 0.6 percentage point since August. Payroll employment increased by 200,000 jobs in December and by an average of 137,000 over the last three months—a bit faster than the pace of job growth over the summer. Other indicators also signaled a more positive tone, as the number of discouraged workers and number working part-time due to slack demand both declined, and employers expanded work hours for their employees.

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