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Broad-based jobs growth signals stronger U.S. economy, but wages still lag

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    For the first time since 2008, the jobless rate in this country has fallen below 6 percent. That fact was part of a jobs report out today that showed a better rebound in the labor market than had been expected even a month ago.

    Economics correspondent Paul Solman went to the heart of Boston's Financial District to discuss the numbers with economist Barry Bluestone.

    It's part of Paul's ongoing reporting Making Sense of financial news.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    So we're in Boston's Financial District, and today's job report is really good news to the economy at long last.

  • BARRY BLUESTONE, Northeastern University:

    Absolutely. We had almost a quarter of a million jobs created in September alone. We have more jobs coming for the last 12 months. As a result, we have no longer the kind of jobless recovery we had in years past. That's real good news.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And financial services, for example, 81,000 jobs, I read this morning, were added just last month.

  • BARRY BLUESTONE:

    Well, as a matter of fact, we had growth in almost all sectors, information services, health care, education, construction. Manufacturing's been growing over the last year, so it's been a broad-based growth in jobs, and now we have got the numbers to show us that we're on our way back to a stronger and stronger economy.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    And are the regional pockets better in one place than in another?

  • BARRY BLUESTONE:

    Yes. Well, we have much lower unemployment rates in some areas. New Hampshire is under 4 percent. We still have areas of the Midwest that is over 7 and 8 percent. But those are down from 10, 12, 13 percent in some of those areas. So that's real improvement.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But in my experience with economists, there's always, on the other hand. Not this time?

  • BARRY BLUESTONE:

    No, there is a but here. And that is, while jobs are up, wages haven't risen at all.

    Now, in some sectors, wages are rising. They're up in information services. They're up in financial activities. But in other sectors they aren't keeping up with inflation, in manufacturing, in restaurants, the hospitality industry, in the health care sector.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But you're talking about wages on an annualized basis based on this past month's numbers, and it's just one month, right, so how significant can it be?

  • BARRY BLUESTONE:

    One month doesn't tell us very much. We have to have many more months of data.

    The fact is, is that over the last five years, wages haven't been rising for most workers in America.

  • PAUL SOLMAN:

    But despite your reservations about wages, these are better numbers today than you expected, right?

  • BARRY BLUESTONE:

    Indeed, these are very good numbers. Almost a quarter million jobs in a single month, more than 200,000 a month for the last 12 months, that's really good.

    It's brought our unemployment rate down below 6 percent. And if we could keep that pace up, we could get down to 5.5, 5.4, 5.3, real, true, full employment within the next year.

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