Ringing in the New Year: So where are the jobs?

Job seekers wait in line at Kennedy-King College to attend a job fair hosted by the city of Chicago on Nov. 9, 2012 in Chicago, Ill.

Today's jobs report shows the U.S. economy added 155,000 jobs in December, while the unemployment rate held steady at 7.8 percent. That was a disappointing number and has economists wondering how strong economic growth will be in 2013.

When asked to assess, FT Alphaville's Cardiff Garcia said that the December jobs number is a good, but not extremely impressive, indicator for the coming economic year.

Fortune magazine's Leigh Gallagher was also cautiously optimistic.

"The longer-term trend here is that we're slowly going down," says Gallagher. "The economy's recovering; there's some bigger forces that are at work here -- both employers being a lot more productive in the past four years, as they've had to get more productive with fewer resources. And we're still in the middle of this sort of 30-year shift from an industrial economy to a service economy, so there are seismic shifts that are happening on top of everything else. So I don't think this is terrible, this is okay."

"I guess the most hopeful sign is that it was resilient at the end of the year, even as there were all these widespread worries about whether or not the fiscal cliff drama was going to affect the economy," says Garcia. "But what we're seeing here is that the last few months of the payrolls reports have been unbelievably consistent -- they've been right around 150,000 jobs -- and actually if you average it out over the last two years, it's almost at the exact same point. So despite all the swings and all the threats we've had to the economy in the last couple of years, you've seen it steadily improve. Unfortunately, it hasn't been that impressive an improvement, given the scale of the unemployment problem. But I think there are some signs that the economy's poised for a little bit better growth this year -- of course we need policymakers to play along, and that's definitely not a given."


So what are our economists and business journalists reading as we begin the New Year?

FT Alphaville's Cardiff Garcia has these picks:

  • For a quick Friday laugh, here's a short piece on the hapless House Tea Partiers.
  • On pickpockets and neuroscience -- try to stop reading this once you've started. You can't.
  • And this 1986 profile of Jack Nicholson is an awesomeness blast from the past.

And Fortune magazine's Leigh Gallagher offers these reads:

About the author

Sarah Gardner is a reporter on the Marketplace sustainability desk.

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