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The December jobs report, in the grand sweep of things — not month to month, but year to year and even decade to decade — shows the economy’s come a long way. Unemployment, at 4.1 percent, is now several points lower than it was before the Great Recession hit. We’ve had more than seven years of strong, steady job growth, one of the longest recoveries on record. And African-American unemployment just hit an all-time low (since data started being collected in 1972) at 6.8 percent. But the labor force participation rate remains more than 3 percent below its pre-recession level. And that means about 3.5 million fewer people in their prime working years — ages 25 to 54 — are in the workforce now.
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