Nightly News   |  January 06, 2012

Job gains boost recovery optimism

The U.S. added 200,000 jobs in December, but there are still 6 million fewer jobs than there were in Dec. 2007. NBC’s Tom Costello reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> time in a long time numbers came out today on unemployment -- real numbers that made people take notice like one of the largest monthly increases in jobs in four years. 200,000 added for the month. here's a big number. the measure of it all, the unemployment rate is now at a three-year low, 8.5% with job gains up across the u.s. economy . it's where we begin the broadcast tonight with nbc's tom costello at one of the construction projects fuelling these numbers. happens to be in suburban virginia tonight. tom, good evening.

>> reporter: hi, brian. 1,600 people work on this project building a rail line from d.c. to dulles airport . warm weather across the country really boosted construction jobs nationwide, but that was not the biggest area of growth. the question now though -- can this employment picture last? for a country still struggling to climb out of the great recession of 2008 , welcome news. those 200,000 new jobs added in december were the sixth month in a row of at least 100,000 new jobs created and that unemployment rate surprisingly ticked down from 8.7% in november, higher than first thought, to 8.5% in december.

>> a lot of families are still having a tough time. a lot of small businesses are still having a tough time, but we are starting to rebound. we are moving in the right direction.

>> reporter: what kind of jobs were added? 23,000 in manufacturing. another 23,000 in health care . 50,000 came in transportation and warehousing. retailers added 28,000 jobs and construction added 17,000 in a warmer than expected december. while the government tries to account for seasonal hiring during the holidays, the question is how many retail warehousing and courier jobs only lasted for a few weeks.

>> there is still a very uneven recovery out there. the good news is this is a step in the right direction, but it's only a step, not a sprint.

>> reporter: republicans insist the white house should take no credit.

>> these numbers are in spite of all of us and really bad behavior in washington. again, the inability to deal with the things that all of us know we need to deal with.

>> reporter: in cleveland andy's small web design and marketing business has suddenly taken off.

>> we have hired four people in the last 12 months. we're looking to bring on another four immediately.

>> reporter: among his new hires, anna edwards.

>> i think our generation is going to learn to be pretty resilient. because of -- all of my friends, everyone i know is in the same boat. we're all fighting the same struggle.

>> reporter: the number of people in the labor force has dropped off as people gave up looking for a job, retired early or went to school. fewer people looking for a job helped drive the unemployment rate down. just to make up for 6 million fewer jobs that exist today compared to the end of 2007 economists say we would need to continue growing at this pace for at least the next three years, but of course the economy has a lot of headwinds we're facing. back to you.

>> tom costello along what's about to be the new dulles line. tom, thanks.