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Job Market Continues To Show Signs of Recovery

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A Target store advertises for employment, in Daly City, Calif. Retailers including Toys R Us, Pier 1 and Borders hired more temporary holiday workers in 2011 than in 2010, emboldened by several months of sales gains and a slowly improving economy.

CREDIT: AP Photo / Ben Margot

Employment was up again in December by some 200,000 jobs, according to a report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, causing unemployment to fall to 8.5 percent for the month, the lowest rate since 2009.

Job growth in December follows strong gains in November, and is the fourth month during which employment has fallen overall. In addition, 371,000 workers who were working part time because they couldn't find enough work have now picked up full-time shifts.

Seasonal hiring related to the holiday season is likely responsible for some portion of the new jobs. A mild winter may also have contributed by extending the construction season in colder climates.

While increased retail hiring is to be expected during December, the sector has hired 240,000 workers during the past year. In addition, average hourly earnings for non-farm payrolls rose by four cents during the month.

According to the report, the industries that saw gains included transportation and warehousing, retail trade, manufacturing, and health care.

The jobs data for December comes on the heel of a buoyant manufacturing report that showed sustained improvement in production and hiring in the manufacturing sector, setting a strong tone for the first day of trading in 2012.

The improving job market could bring relief for families and individuals affected by the sustained economic recession that has depressed economic activity worldwide for the past several years.

The report is good news for the Obama administration, which has worked to create new jobs despite battling with Congress over specifics of such plans.

In recent months, President Obama has announced a series of “We Can’t Wait” executive actions to bypass Congress and spur job creation. Last week, officials announced one such effort, the Summer Jobs+ program, which will nearly 180,000 opportunities—including jobs and internships—for young Americans in summer 2012 through private corporations.

“After losing more than 8 million jobs in the recession, we’ve added more than 3 million private sector jobs over the past 22 months,” Obama said during his recent weekly address. “And we’re starting 2012 with manufacturing on the rise and the American auto industry on the mend.”

Some economists believe that job market trends mirror historical indicators of economic recovery known as the virtuous cycle, in which hiring and spending rise and feed off each other. If so, the last couple of months could be the prelude to a more robust relief from the recession.

“We’re heading in the right direction,” Obama said. “And we’re not going to let up.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics, which operates under the auspices of the Department of Labor, conducts research on employment and pricing in the United States.

Jon Christian is a reporter with Campus Progress. Follow him on Twitter @Jon_Christian.

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