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M. Spencer Green/AP/Press Association Images

US unemployment rate drops to three-year low

Good news for Barack Obama in election year.

THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION received some good news yesterday as new figures revealed that the stubbornly-high unemployment rate had fallen to its lowest level in almost three years.

The Labor Department showed a hiring surge had occurred in December with the nonfarm payroll increasing by 200,000 and the unemployment rate dropping to 8.5 per cent.

The private sector added 212,000 jobs in December with gains in transport, warehousing, retail, manufacturing, health care and mining. Those increases were offset by 12,000 layoffs by governments.

The growth, while expected, beat all forecasts for December. However, a revision from the department showed that November’s 100,000 gain was smaller than first estimated.

There remains 13.1 million people in America who are looking for work. The jobless rates for adult women is 7.9 per cent and 8 per cent for men. There was little change in the breakdown of these figures as rates for teenagers (23.1 per cent), whites (7.5 per cent), blacks (15.8 per cent), Hispanics (11 per cent) largely the same.

The positive jobs news could be vital for Obama’s prospects for re-election in November, especially if momentum can be maintained.

The unemployment rate, which peaked at 10 per cent in October 2009 and stood at 9.1 per cent in August, has fallen in four consecutive months. It was 8.7 per cent in November.

-Additional reporting by AP

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