Contradictory Economic Statistics

The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the unemployment rate for January had fallen, but how could it decline so much if businesses added so few workers?

On Friday morning, the Bureau of Labor Statistics announced the unemployment rate for January, and the news was very good. The overall rate declined from 9.4 percent to 9 percent flat. In the past two months, the unemployment rate has fallen 0.8 percent percentage points—the biggest 60-day drop in more than 50 years. It must mean that American businesses, finally confident that the recovery has taken hold and feeling flush after a good holiday shopping season, have decided to add workers. It must mean that jobseekers are facing less competition, and the labor market is stabilizing. Or not.

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