The end of 2011 showed some unexpectedly positive news regarding the U.S. economy. A Department of Labor report found that national unemployment had reached a three and a half year low while gains in the stock and housing market all pointed to a strong start for the first quarter of 2012. Similarly, the Labor Department's monthly Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) found that hiring in November had increased, according to MSNBC.
Despite this positive news, the American job market is still in a slump when compared to its pre-2008 levels. The Associated Press reports that American employers created about 4.15 million jobs in November – up by 3 percent from October. Still, there are about four unemployed workers competing for every new position that opens.
"As the job-seekers ratio shows, what's happening is not that millions of workers have become lazy, unskilled or unproductive; it is that there are not enough jobs available," Economic Policy Institute economist Heidi Shierholz told MSNBC.
However, there have been noticeable gains since the economic recession began in 2008. Summer 2009 showed approximately seven out-of-work Americans for every available position. Many economists hope that this slow but steady improvement will translate into encouraging news in throughout 2012.