Do New Unemployment Numbers Signal Economy Has Turned Corner?

In December, unemployment was down to 9.4 percent, and 103,000 jobs were added.

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The Labor Department announced yesterday that unemployment dropped to 9.4 percent—its lowest number since mid-2009—and employers added 103,000 non-farm jobs in December. “One thing is for certain: Our investments have reversed the trend of catastrophic job losses and put this country on the road to recovery,”  Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis said in a statement.

One caveat to the improved unemployment rate is that the government does not count people who have stopped looking for work as unemployed. "Half the decline [in the unemployment rate], yes, was people getting jobs," John Silvia, chief economist for Wells Fargo, told U.S. News. "The other half was people dropping out [of the labor force]. That dropping out is very discouraging."

[Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the economy.]

And the job creation numbers fell short of economists’ forecasts that December would see about 150,000 new jobs. Solis admits the fight is not over. “While we have seen steady job growth in the past year,” she said, “faster job growth is needed in 2011 to help bring down the unemployment rate and put those Americans who lost jobs during the recession back to work.”

The New York Times quoted Steven Blitz, a senior economist for ITG Investment Research, who expressed cautious optimism. “The U.S. economy finally appears to be picking up steam and headed toward recovery,” he said, adding that the real question is whether job creation will keep up, “or will high unemployment be an enduring feature of the United States’ economy?”

What do you think? Are the new job numbers a signal the economy is turning the corner? Take our poll and post your thoughts below.

This poll is now closed, but the debate continues in the comments section.

Previously: Should Navy Captain Lose His Post?