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STEVE CHIOTAKIS: A mixed bag from the Labor Department this morning. The nation's unemployment rate fell in December to 9.4 percent. The lowest level in a year and a half. Good news, right? But the economy only added 103,000 jobs last month. Pretty meager, eh? So how do we analyze these numbers? Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke offered his insight.
Marketplace's Scott Tong gives us the lowdown.
SCOTT TONG: 103,000 new jobs underwhelmed most economists. Including Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke. He spoke to the Senate Budget Committee.
BEN BERNANKE: It's about what we expected, but it's not going to ... if it continues at this pace we're not going to see sustained declines in the unemployment rate.
That rate is volatile. Today's numbers show it fell from 9.8 percent to 9.4 percent, but December numbers are historically sketchy, and part of the drop is from job hunters giving up. Bernanke says boosting the job market is where the Fed's buying of $600 billion in government bonds comes in. That's what Bernanke says here, adjusting for Fed-speak:
BERNANKE: It was concern about failure of unemployment to decline that motivated us back in August and September to adopt more monetary accommodation. And my view is that we've already had some benefits from that.
The benefits include stronger consumer and business spending, and sunnier financial markets. Critics worry about the downside -- a potentially weaker dollar and inflation. But Bernanke's Fed shows no signs of turning back.
In Washington, I'm Scott Tong for Marketplace.
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