A recovery with jobs?

Don’t break out the champagne and confetti just yet, but the employment picture for the nation appears to be improving.

January’s unemployment rate was listed as 9.7 percent, down from 10 percent the previous month, after having dipped from 10.2 percent earlier in 2009.

President Barack Obama was appropriately cautious when talking about the figures Friday. They are, he said, “a cause for hope, but not celebrations because far too many of our neighbors and friends and family are out of work,” he said.

That’s true in Mesa County, where the unemployment rate was the highest in Colorado in December — the last month for which figures were available. The local unemployment rate of 8.9 percent was still below the national average.

And the official unemployment rate doesn’t account for all those who have stopped looking for jobs or who have accepted jobs well below their skill level simply to have a minimal paycheck. Experts put the effective unemployment rate at closer to 17 percent.

Still, the latest numbers aren’t just moonbeam. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the number of Americans with jobs rose by 541,000 in January. The manufacturing and retail sectors both added jobs, with manufacturing doing so for the first time in three years. At the same time, employers cut fewer jobs in the first month of the year than economists had projected.

That doesn’t mean we’ve suddenly turned the corner. Economists still project unemployment will be at or above 10 percent for most of this year. And the continuing economic uncertainty revealed itself on Wall Street last week, where the Dow Jones industrial average dropped well below 10,000 before eking out a small gain late Friday.

Still, the January unemployment numbers are welcome, if somewhat unexpected, news. We only hope the trend will continue.


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