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It would be an inspiring sight: to gather the 200,000 Americans who got a new job in December.

The closely watched government jobs report came out this morning, and what we have here is an economy that’s seems to be getting up out of its hospital bed. The 200,000 new names recorded on payrolls is much stronger than expected. Mining, manufacturing and healthcare were doing a lot of hiring last month.

The parallel survey of households put the unemployment rate down to 8.5 percent, the lowest in three years.

From time to time we check in with small businessman Kelly Conklin who runs a high-end cabinetry business in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He says his headcount is back to where it was before he got mugged by the recession. The next step, Conklin says, is to be able to get everyone on his staff back to full pay (they took a 10-percent pay cut last year) and to restore paid vacations for his eleven full-time employees.

Conklin says his clients really scaled back their projects in the downturn, leaving him juggling many more little projects than usual. Now, he’s seeing projects he bid on before the recession and assumed were dead come back to life. He thinks it’s a sign that clients are feeling more confident about the economy.

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