Today’s release of November jobs data brought a bit of extra holiday cheer to the week. Despite what pundits expected, the new data show a healthy month of job growth and continued declines in the unemployment rate for most groups of workers.

In November, the economy added 146,000 jobs and the overall unemployment rate fell slightly to 7.7 percent, its lowest rate since December 2008. Adult women’s unemployment rate fell to 7.0 percent and adult men’s unemployment rate fell to 7.2 percent. It isn’t the fastest recovery ever, but we continue to be headed in the right direction.

But before we get too excited, there’s a catch. In November 2012, more than four in ten jobless adult workers were still looking for work after more than six months of searching, including 42 percent of jobless adult women and 45 percent of jobless adult men. These rates are about one-and-a-half-times what they were at the start of the recovery in June 2009.

Percent of adult jobless workers who were  unable to find work after six months

What’s even worse about the high long-term unemployment rate is that extended federal unemployment insurance benefits are slated to expire in just a few weeks. The National Employment Law Project estimates that without this extension more than two million long-term unemployed Americans will be cut off from a major source of income between Christmas and New Year’s (PDF). Failing to extend this program means families will be hit hard – and so will our economy. Economists estimate that without this extension economic growth will be reduced by billions of dollars and we could lose hundreds of thousands of jobs.


Things are getting better – but policymakers can do more to pick up the pace of the recovery.