Labor Department Reports 200,000 New Jobs Were Added Last Month

In a sign that perhaps the U.S. economy is finally chugging forward like the little engine that could, the Labor Department announced today that 200,000 new jobs were added last month.

The New York Times says that the national unemployment rate fell to 8.5 percent in December, from 8.7 percent in November when 120,000 new jobs were created.

December seemed to be a happy and encouraging month so far as economic news went, as consumers were more confident, manufacturing did well and small businesses proved they were still hanging in there with the big boys. It was also the sixth month in a row that 100,000 or more jobs were added.

After a rough summer for the economy, with the debt ceiling debate always looming and natural disasters around the world, experts had been hesitant to hail any upward movement too heartily, for fear of slowing the economic recovery.

And it’s still not time for a raging celebratory party yet.The unemployment rate still needs to be lowered quite a lot, which means even more jobs must be created. And important extensions to the payroll tax break and unemployment benefits are also necessary to boost family’s spending and continue to fuel the economy.

But let’s be cheered where we can, right? As Ian Shepherdson of High Frequency Economics told the NYT, “This is the real thing. This is finally the economy throwing off the shackles of the credit crunch.”

Economy Gains Steam as 200,000 New Jobs Added [New York Times]