Surprising report shows 200,000 more jobs were added last month
NBC NATIONAL NEWS — Holiday hiring helped lower the nation's unemployment rate to 8.5 percent in December, the lowest level in nearly three years.
For economists, the headline is 200,000 new jobs.
"These are good numbers, anything with a '2 handle' on it is darn good. If we can maintain that we'll get unemployment moving south in a big way," says Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Analytics.
The economy added 1.6 million jobs last year, and unemployment averaged 8.9 percent,
down from 9.6 percent in 2010.
That's good news for President Obama in this election year.
"It is important for the American people to recognize that we've now added 3.2 million new private sector jobs over the last 22 months, nearly 2 million new jobs last year alone," he said. "We're creating jobs on a consistent basis. We're not going to let up."
Still, it's a rough market out there for job seekers.
Just yesterday Boeing announced it's closing a facility in Wichita next year, leaving more than 2,100 people out of work because defense contracts are drying up.
The national unemployment numbers don't count people who've given up on finding work, or those forced into part time jobs.
The national "underemployment" rate is over 15 percent.