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March 2013

U.S. labor market continued to improve in 2012

Lisa M. Williamson

The labor market continued to gain strength slowly in 2012 as unemployment eased and employment grew The U.S. labor market continued to improve slowly in 2012 as unemployment trended downward and employment grew. In the fourth quarter of the year, 12.2 million people were unemployed and the unemployment rate was 7.8 percent, nearly a full percentage point lower than a year earlier. Total civilian employment grew at a faster pace in 2012 than in 2011. (For a comparison of the employment measures available from the Current Population Survey (CPS) and the Current Employment Statistics survey (CES), see the box on page 4.) Still, even with the modest improvement in the job market, a number of labor market problems persisted. For example, the proportion of unemployed people who had been without work for 6 months or longer remained close to historically high levels.

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