The new jobless rate came out Friday morning--8.5 percent, the lowest since February, 2009--good news for President Barack Obama. High unemployment is the biggest threat to his re-election, no matter who the GOP nominates to run against him.
From Mitt Romney
"Of course it is good news fewer Americans are out of work, but thirty-five consecutive months of unemployment above 8 percent is no cause for celebration. Under President Obama, we have lost 1.7 million jobs - America deserves better. Eventually our economy will recover, America always does. But President Obama's policies have slowed the recovery and created misery for 24 million Americans who are unemployed, or stuck in part-time jobs when what they really want is full-time work. As President, I will refuse to accept high unemployment as the 'new normal' for our economy."
From Newt Gingrich:
"Three full years into the Obama presidency, and there are still 1.7 million fewer Americans going to work today than there were on Obama's Inauguration day.
"Today's new December unemployment figure doesn't capture the full scale of the tragedy: almost 24 million Americans still unemployed, working part-time for economic reasons, or discouraged from looking for work.
"The Obama experiment has failed, and it is time to look to proven solutions that have successfully empowered job-creators in the past.
"Ronald Reagan enacted historic income tax rate cuts, a stronger and more stable dollar, regulatory reforms, and spending controls. Three years into his recovery, Americans had created about 9.5 million jobs. When we took control of the House in 1995, we moved quickly to balance the budget, reform entitlements, and make the largest capital gains tax cut in history - three years later, 8 million more Americans were going into work every day.
"Now more than ever, America needs a Reagan conservative in the White House."
Statement from the White House, Alan B. Krueger, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers:
Today's employment report provides further evidence that the economy is continuing to heal from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression. It is critical that we continue the economic policies that are helping us to dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the recession that began at the end of 2007. Most importantly, we need to extend the payroll tax cut and continue to provide emergency unemployment benefits through the end of this year, and take other steps the President has proposed in the American Jobs Act.
"Private sector payrolls increased by 212,000 jobs and overall payroll employment rose by 200,000 jobs in December. The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage point to 8.5 percent, the lowest level since February 2009. The drop in unemployment over the month was mostly due to employment growth, not lower labor force participation. The unemployment rate has fallen by 0.9 percentage point in the last 12 months. Despite adverse shocks that have created headwinds for economic growth, the economy has added private sector jobs for 22 straight months, for a total of 3.2 million payroll jobs over that period. In the last 12 months, 1.9 million private sector jobs have been added on net in 2011, more than in any year since 2005. Nonetheless, we need faster growth to put even more Americans back to work.
"Sectors with net job increases in December included transportation and warehousing (+50,200), health care and social assistance (+28,700), retail trade (+27,900), manufacturing (+23,000), leisure and hospitality (+21,000), and construction (+17,000). Local governments lost 14,000 jobs and state government employment was unchanged.
"The monthly employment and unemployment numbers are volatile and employment estimates can be subject to substantial revision. Therefore, as the Administration always stresses, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report."