The January jobs report has Democrats celebrating. The national unemployment rate dropped for the fifth consecutive month to 8.3 %, the lowest in almost three years. The black unemployment rate was even more encouraging, dipping from 15.8% in December to 13.6%, its lowest since 2009.
At a Joint Economic Committee hearing held Friday, Rep. Elijah Cummings applauded the decline in African-American unemployment, but said that 13.6% “is still completely unacceptably high.” He issued a challenge to House and Senate lawmakers to “put aside their partisan rhetoric and strive toward one single unifying goal: the continued growth of the American economy.
Although the public sector trimmed 14,000 jobs, the private sector added 243,000 new jobs, which was much more than economists had predicted. In the last 23 months, the economy has added 3.7 million jobs, according to White House statistics.
“These numbers will go up and down in the coming months. And there are still far too many Americans who need a job or need a job that pays better than the one they have now. But the economy is growing stronger,” President Obama said Friday.
The president said in a speech delivered in Arlington, Va. that if the economy is to continue its recovery, the most important thing that Congress can do is extend the payroll tax cut and unemployment insurance programs through the end of the year. In December, lawmakers passed only a two-month extension that exposed rifts between House and Senate Republicans and between Speaker John Boehner and his Tea Party freshmen.
“I want to send a clear message to Congress,” Obama said. “Do not slow down the recovery that we’re on. Don’t muck it up. Keep it moving in the right direction.”