Besides the obvious good news in the headline number, Friday's big unemployment report
also contains some encouraging trends for President Obama buried below the top line.
Looking forward to 2012, one challenge for Obama has been that groups that he needs to turn out in big numbers -- groups at the core of his coalition -- have been among those hit hardest by the sustained downturn. Many of them are still suffering. But Friday's unemployment number showed bigger gains for African-Americans and Hispanics than for whites. And young people, another key Obama block from 2008 that has also been heavily affected, also saw big improvements. For each of those three groups, the unemployment rate is now the lowest it's been essentially since Obama took office.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate in January for Hispanics dropped to 10.5 percent, down from 11 percent in December and 12 percent last January. The rate for African-Americans now stands at 13.6 percent, a sharp decline from 15.8 percent in December and 15.7 percent last January. In each case, that's still much higher than the 7.4 percent rate among whites, but the magnitude of improvement recently has been much better for Hispanics and African-Americans. (The white jobless rate has only inched down from 7.6 percent last November.)