The Bureau of Labor Statistics announced Friday that unemployment had fallen by 0.4 percent to 9.4 percent in December. Though employers added 103,000 jobs, the figures are lower than forecasted, indicating a a slower-than-expected recovery. Throughout 2010, the unemployment figure hovered around 9.6 percent, the highest since 1983.
This is the lowest unemployment level in 19 months, but according to the Wall Street Journal, the new figures mean that an estimated 14.5 million people who are seeking work can’t find a job.
Manufacturing was a major source of new jobs, while construction remained stagnant. Overall government employment fell by 10,000 jobs, most from local and state governments.
Human Rights Groups Express Concern for Some Named in Leaked Cables
The U.S. State Department is warning human rights activists and officials named in cables to be published by WikiLeaks about potential threats to their safety, according to the New York Times. A task force in Washington and embassies around the world are moving to warn dissidents of potential fallout from future leaks. WikiLeaks has thus far released only a fraction of the 251,287 cables in its possession. In documents released last July, Afghans who had helped the American military were named.
Human rights groups were also concerned about increased hesitation from informants, afraid of being named. Their concerns mark a departure from previous praise for WikiLeaks in previous cases where information on human rights violations was made public.
Major Pakistani Political Party Agrees to Remain in Governing Coalition
Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has convinced the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) to remain in the governing coalition, after the country’s second-largest party threatened to withdraw from the government. The deal averts a potential collapse and new elections at at a time when Pakistan has been faced with especially intense political turmoil and the assassination of the moderate governor of Punjab, the country’s most populous state.
Gilani’s victory comes amid a continuing battle with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) over fuel prices. Under pressure from political opponents, he agreed to keep fuel prices low through subsidies. Pakistan’s economy is threatened by the risk of inflation.
Suicide Bomber Kills 17 at Afghan Bath House
A suicide bomber killed 17 and wounded an estimated 23 people at a public bath house in Kandahar province. A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack, which targeted men washing before prayers.
The attack came in an area known as a hotbed for Taliban activity — and one that has been the focus of campaigns by U.S. and NATO forces.
Hmong Leader Dies in Exile
Vang Pao, a Laotian general and leader of the Hmong ethnic group, died Thursday in exile in the United States. In cooperation with the CIA, Pao had been a key figure in the secret war in Laos during the Vietnam War and later led an exodus of Hmong, many of whom resettled in Minneapolis and California. Pao, considered a subversive by the Lao government, later worked as a grocery store security guard in the United States. He was 81 years old.