New data from the US Department of Labor shows that the unemployment rate declined by 0.4 percent last month. That means unemployment is currently at 9.0 percent, down 0.8 percent in the last two months.
Unfortunately, though, these encouraging unemployment figures tell only part of the story, and other employment numbers released on Friday weren't as rosy. Last month, nonfarm payrolls expanded by just 36,000 jobs, far less than economists had predicted. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment rose in manufacturing and in retail trade but was down in construction and in transportation and warehousing. Employment in most other major industries changed little over the month.
Undoubtedly, snowstorms throughout much of the country took some toll on job growth. But, even so, most analysts remain uncertain about whether the economy has finally turned a corner. The US is just not getting the "dynamic job growth that is going to cut the unemployment rate significantly," one economist told the The New York Times.
Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said she considers the drop in unemployment encouraging, although "we know we have a ways to go." Like President Obama, she sees innovation and education essential to fuel and sustain economic recovery.
"In order to win the future, we must educate our workers, invest in science, and build the infrastructure our companies need to succeed," Secretary Solis said in a statement. "Innovation will be a key driver of the economy as we strengthen America's position as home to the world's best new businesses and industries, and the best jobs."