The Labor Department reports that the country's unemployment rate fell sharply last month. It dropped from 9 percent to 8.6 percent. Unfortunately, the real labor market may not have improved all that much. Many workers have given up looking for jobs, and their "retirement" can skew the unemployment rate, making it look better than the reality.
The unemployment rate dropped unexpectedly to 8.6 percent in November, in part because hundreds of thousands of Americans stopped looking for work. But analysts said the modest increase of 120,000 jobs created last month points to an economy that's generally still limping.
The highly anticipated news brought a surprise: The unemployment rate had been expected to stay at 9 percent. But it fell in part because of an increase in the number of "discouraged" workers. They've given up looking for jobs.
Time is running out for European leaders to find a way out of their debt crisis and salvage the euro as the single currency for 17 nations. As they prepare for a European Union summit next week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have presented their plans to their respective countries.
The unemployment rate began the year at 9 percent and may end essentially unchanged. While some sectors add jobs, others lose them. Private employers are modestly adding to their payrolls, but government is cutting back. All that makes for a job market that's stuck in a rut.
The housing industry continues to be a drag on the economy. David Wessel, economics editor of The Wall Street Journal, talks to Steve Inskeep about the state of the housing market, and possible action the administration might take to boost this critical sector of the economy.
A discovery of at least 2 billion barrels of oil in the western part of the state has led to an oil boom. That means a low unemployment rate of 3.5 percent, but residents question the cost. "To expect a county of 20,000 people to overnight absorb another 20,000 people is ludicrous," one official says.
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