Low jobless rate is an encouraging sign
There has been a big improvement in the employment picture. The Labor Department reported Friday that the jobless rate in January fell 2/10 of a point to 8.3 percent, the lowest in three years. The economy created 243,000 jobs, a lot more than economists or Wall Street were expecting.
The news sent stock prices soaring -- the Dow gained 156 points to close at 12,862. That is the highest close for the Dow since May 2008. The financial crisis sent the index as low as 6,500 the following year, so that''s quite a recovery since then. CBS News correspondent Anthony Mason tells us who's posting the "help wanted" signs.
Patriots trash cans and Giants towels are rolling off the line this week at Wincraft, the sports collectibles company in Winona, Minnesota. Super Bowl Sunday is big business for Wincraft and president John Killen sees business growing 10 percent this year:
"We're ahead of plan already in the first month of the year, so we're bullish on 2012," he said.
Like many companies, Wincraft, which has 500 employees, had to downsize during the recession.
"But the good news is we've hired back over 140 people in the last two years," said Killen. "And we're continuing to hire people. We've hired 20 new people in the last 90 days."
Mason spoke with economist Christopher Thornberg. "Is this sustainable?" he asked.
"Oh absolutely," Thornberg responded. He said private businesses have now added on average 218,000 jobs a month since November.
"Add up the weight of evidence," said Thornberg. "It's not just January. It's November, December and January.And what you see is an economy that's picking up speed."
Back in Winona, that's allowed Jeff Smith at last to land a job. After three years of unemployment and part-time work, the sales and marketing specialist, who once had his own company, tried a new strategy.
"I made the decision to change my career path and do whatever I could do to take care of my family," he said.
He was overqualified for his new job as a receiving clerk, but took it happily. "I think anytime anybody can get a paycheck, their self esteem goes up and they're so much happier with themselves. A lot of stress goes away."
Even at this rate of job growth is sustained, it will take several years for the unemployment rate to return to pre-recession levels. The economy still has 5.6 million fewer jobs than it did four years ago.
"CBS Evening News" anchor Scott Pelley asked Mason what explains the job growth.
"Employers have been telling us for months now that things are actually looking better," said Mason, "that business have been getting better, but they haven't been hiring because ofall the uncertainty out there. It looks like they're finally regaining some confidence.
- Okla. tornado survivor finds dog buried alive under rubble
- Storm spotter: Oklahoma tornado "a nightmare"
- Injured third-grade teacher tells of trying to protect students
- Survivors pulled from Okla. school hit by tornado
- 5/21: Plaza Towers Elementary School: A look at the damage; Tornado injuries: A doctor's point of view
- Oklahoma tornado survivor: "Everything is gone"
- Okla. family mourns child killed at school following tornado
- Oklahoma native's home destroyed for the second time
- Tornado in Moore, Okla., was an EF5, the most powerful there is
- 5/21: Family's last-minute decision likely saved their lives; Closer look reveals extent of destruction in Moore
- Poignant images capture tornado's emotional aftermath
- Mother and daughter share stories of survival
- 5/21: Tornado in Moore, Okla., was an EF5, the most powerful there is
- Tornado survivor: "I'm very lucky I am still here"
- Oklahoma: A state frequented by tragedy
- 5/20: Deadly tornado strikes Okla.; Fmr. Cincinnati IRS office worker speaks out