We Went From 7.8% to 4.7% Under Obama's Watch

Rate ticked up slightly in December, as expected
By Newser Editors,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 6, 2017 7:55 AM CST
In this Sept. 3, 2014 file photo, people wait in line to sign up for unemployment in Atlantic City, NJ.   (AP Photo/Mel Evans, File)

(Newser) – It's the end of an era: The last jobs report that falls fully under President Obama's tenure was issued on Friday, and he'll hand President-elect Donald Trump an economy that boasts a 4.7% unemployment rate. That's a tick up from November's 4.6%, and was expected by economists. The rate stood at 7.8% at Obama's inauguration, and peaked at 10% under his watch. Fewer jobs were added than expected for the month, at 156,000 to the 183,000 the Wall Street Journal had forecast. One rosy note: Hourly pay jumped 2.9% from a year earlier, the biggest increase in more than seven years. The AP sees that as a positive sign that the low unemployment rate is forcing businesses to offer higher wages to attract and keep workers.

Sluggish growth in Americans' paychecks has been a longstanding weak spot in the seven-year recovery. For all of 2016, job growth averaged 180,000 a month, down from 229,000 in 2015, but enough to lower unemployment over time. The Journal reports the labor force participation rate has barely budged in a year, with December's 62.7% up only slightly from 62.4% a year prior. That the rate—which indicates how many Americans who can and want to work are working—"remains well below its peaks during better economic times ... [is] a sign that the economy doesn't have enough bodies working to produce strong economic growth," writes Paul Vigna. (Read more unemployment stories.)

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