December Jobs Report Shows Unemployment Improving

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A bleak year for the economy closed with a glimmer of hope.

The December jobs report, released Friday, gave indication that while the U.S. is still far from out of the woods, the economy could be starting to move in the right direction. Unemployment rates hit 8.5 for the first time in almost three years, and was the third month in a row to fall below 9.0.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, these numbers are seasonally adjusted.

The report showed 200,000 jobs created for the month of December, with 1.6 non-farm jobs created for the year. Less than a million non-farm jobs were added in 2010.

The news wasn't all good: under-employment (jobs that are low-paying or part-time) remained far higher than it was at the start of the recession in 2007. With 6 million jobs lost in the recession, and millions of Americans lacking the skills to obtain a plum job, the under-employment rate stood at 15.2 percent. In 2007, the under-employment rate was 8 percent. The rate did drop slightly from November to December, however.

Those considered "long-term unemployed" (jobless for 27 or more weeks) remained almost half of the total unemployed.

Still, with numbers trending in a positive direction, it was both a good way to end 2011 and a hopeful start to the new year.

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