For The White House, Cautious Optimism On The Economy

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On its face, the White House should be thrilled with the unemployment picture that the Department of Labor released this morning: a drop from 10.0% to 9.7%, and a significant drop in the broader U6 measure -- nearly a full percentage point to 16.5%. Two reasons: companies seem to be converting part-time employees to full-time employees, and the number of people looking for part-time work declined.  Does this mean that confidence is back? Not necessarily. It could mean that productivity gains over the past year have been higher than originally believed. Or it could represent a short-term behavioral change that has more to do with the vagaries of the holiday season than anything else. (UI rates for certain groups, like African Americans and teenagers.)  Worrisome  for the White House, and a harbinger for things to come: a decline in state and local government employment.  "Today's numbers showing a decline in construction and state and local government emphasize the importance of two other of the President's priorities -- continued infrastructure investment and additional aid for strapped state and local governments," the White House said in a statement.  Politically: great timing for the jobs bill.

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Marc Ambinder is an Atlantic contributing editor. He is also a senior contributor at Defense One, a contributing editor at GQ, and a regular contributor at The Week.

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