You want the good news or the bad news first? Hey, it's Friday and this is The Upswing so let's go with good news first! The national unemployment rate dropped to a five-month low of 9.7% in January, suggesting perhaps that the labor market will soon take a turn for the better. And yesterday, you'll recall, we pointed you to the places with the best ratios of applicants per job opening.
Now the less spectacularly wonderful news: The Labor Department revised layoff figures from recent months, nudging December's job losses from the previously reported 85,000 to 150,000 and November from 4,000 to 64,000.
The $64,000 question on everyone's mind at this point is, which way are things going to go? Will the unemployment rate rise back up, to as high as 11%, as some are predicting? Or is January's good news—a relatively modest 20,000 jobs disappeared last month—a harbinger of a happier time?
That $30 billion the White House is hoping to pump into small businesses should help guide us toward the latter. But it will take more hard work and ingenuity than that to keep the good times rolling.