Obama will leave office with unemployment at 4.7 percent

bglobelogoBy Deirdre Fernandes | The Boston Globe

On the month of President Obama’s first inauguration in January 2009, the US economy bled nearly 800,000 jobs and the unemployment rate was speeding toward its peak of 10 percent.

He leaves office with the jobless rate down to 4.7 percent in December, wages showing their strongest pickup in seven years, and the recovery finally reaching to the bottom rungs of the US labor market.

The US Labor Department on Friday said employers had added 156,000 new workers to their payrolls in December, bringing the total tally of jobs created under the Obama administration to 11.3 million. It’s a robust record for a modern president, particularly considering the depths of the recession he inherited, though he was outperformed by Ronald Reagan (15.9 million jobs) and Bill Clinton (22.9 million).

Average hourly wages also increased in December to $26, a 2.9 percent climb over the same time the previous year, the Labor Department reported.

“We were [in] the abyss,” said Mark Zandi, a chief economist with Moody’s Analytics. “We are now at full employment or pretty close. Not everyone has benefited, but every indication is that they soon will. It’s been an amazing eight years.”

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Yet it was also a long slog that unmasked inequities across the US and left much work still to be done to strengthen the economy for the long term, economists said.

Obama is turning over a mixed economic legacy to his successor Donald Trump, economists added.

The unemployment rate for black workers remains at 7.8 percent. While the jobless rate for those with a college degree is 2.5 percent, it’s almost twice that for workers who only finished high school, said Alicia Sasser Modestino, an economics and public policy professor at Northeastern University.

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