The latest first-time unemployment filings continue their downward trend, while employment numbers are up (and unemployment dropped by 0.1% to 8.5% for December, 2011). Actually, first time filings are up by 8,000 from the week of December 17, but the four-week moving average (generally less up-and-down than the weekly average) has now declined for five straight weeks, to a value of 373,250 (see this CNNMoney story “Jobless claims improve” dated 1/5/2012, for more details). This is the lowest value since June 2008, which means we’re still approaching the return for what passed for normal before the 2008 market downturn that launched our latest recession.
At the same time, it’s the first Friday of the month, so the US Bureau of Labor Statistics has published its latest “Employment Situation Summary” (dated 1/6/2012). It, too, has some good numbers to share: employment rose by 200,000 in December, and also continues the downward trend for the number of unemployed persons (13.1 million) and the overall unemployment rate (8.5%). But alas, Table A-14 (“Unemployed persons by industry and class of worker, not seasonally adjusted”) shows only modest gains for the information sector, and for professional and business services, where most IT professionals are classified. Information gained a paltry 9,000 jobs for 2011, while professional and business services did better with a gain of 74,000 jobs (respective unemployment rates were 8.1%-2010 vs. 7.7%-2011 for information, and 10.2%-2010 vs. 9.3% for business and professional services).
It seems we’re still slowly but surely inching away from the brink of the precipice of depression, and fears of a double-dip recession. Why then, do we appear to have such a fascination with looking over that edge, and the huge drop below?