Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jobless Rate Falls to 6.4% Statistics Bathe Economic Outlook with a Rosy Glow

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Jobless Rate Falls to 6.4% Statistics Bathe Economic Outlook with a Rosy Glow

Article excerpt

In a sign that the nation's economy is mending, the unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent in November, the lowest level in nearly three years.

The index dropped from 6.8 percent in October, indicating that the number of people out of work last month fell by 534,000, to 8.3 million. The change was the best one-month improvement in the number in 10 years.

The report, released by the Labor Department, prompted Labor Secretary Robert Reich to drop his refrain that the economy is in a "jobless recovery" and declare, "We are now in a jobs recovery."

Illinois posted one of the largest drops in unemployment, according to the Labor Department. The rate in November fell to 5.9 percent from 7.8 percent in October.

Figures for Missouri for the same period will be released next month.

Some economists questioned the validity of the statistics because of the size of the drop. But other reports out Friday supported the Labor Department's positive tone:

The Commerce Department said October orders for manufactured goods rose for the third straight month and reached their highest level on record. They were boosted by big gains in aircraft and automobiles.

The government's main economic forecasting gauge, the index of leading indicators, also increased for the third month in a row.

And automakers reported Friday that their car and truck sales rose 12.3 percent in late November, pushing total domestic sales for the month to their best level in three years.

But the big news was on the employment front, where an extra 208,000 people found non-farm jobs and the unemployment rate fell to its lowest level since January 1991.

The national figures follow by a week an improved report on jobs for the St. Louis area. Unemployment in the region fell in October to 5.7 percent, down from 6 percent in September.

Other national reports have shown strength in housing and consumer spending. A big jump in consumer confidence was reported earlier this week.

David Wyss of the DRI/McGraw-Hill consulting firm in Lexington, Mass. …

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