The weekly unemployment numbers hit a four year low last week. The Labor Department stated that the number of people seeking unemployment applications fell by 5,000 to 348,000. That is the lowest level since February 2008, before the financial crisis was in full swing. The four week average stands at 355,000 which is also a four year low. The four week average is considered the more meaningful figure.
These numbers mean that March will likely continue the strong job growth seen the past few months. The US has averaged 245,000 new jobs created the past three months. That job growth has pushed the unemployment rate down to 8.3%, which is the lowest in three years.
Economic growth in the fourth quarter of 2012 is what is bolstering the job growth. The economy grew at 3% in the fourth quarter, as compared to just 1.7% in the third quarter. This growth is beginning to spill into all aspects of the economy. The housing market is finally beginning to rise from the ashes. The auto industry is coming back strong. Even manufacturing, which was hemorrhaging jobs even before the financial crisis, is beginning to show signs of life.
Despite all the good news, there is still cause for concern. Rising gas prices could cut into consumer spending on other goods within the economy. That could slow growth and thus hurt job creation. Even with all the recent jobs created we are still down 5 million jobs since before the recession. Part of that is thanks to a global economy that shifts jobs to cheaper labor markets. Right now there are 12.8 million Americans who are unemployed, and there are even more who are under employed.
The numbers are very good news for President Obama. Republicans main line of attack against the president has been his weak leadership on the economy. If it continues to improve his chances to be re-elected will sky rocket. He is building quite a first term resume that includes saving the American auto industry, getting health care reform passed, and passing a stimulus package that most economists say prevented another Great Depression. A growing economy will take away the GOP’s biggest talking point.