BEST JOB NUMBERS SINCE THE RECESSION BEGAN…. Waiting for the monthly job numbers to be released this morning, I saw the New York Times homepage run a headline that said the “economy shed 11,000 jobs in November.” I assumed, in all sincerity, it was a typo.

After all, there were plenty of estimates on what to expect. The most optimistic number I saw was 130,000 job losses; the most pessimistic was 169,000 job losses. A total of 11,000 losses just didn’t seem realistic.

And yet, that’s what happened.

The United States economy shed a surprisingly few 11,000 jobs in November, and the unemployment rate fell to 10 percent, from 10.2 percent in October, the Labor Department said Friday. […]

The pace of job loss has been declining since a peak in January, and some economists say they expect a turning point to come in the late spring or summer, with employers finally adding workers as a recovery takes hold.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics also revised estimates from September and October, and both were better than previously thought.

To put last month’s numbers in the larger context, since the recession began two years ago this month, the single “best” month for the job market was January 2008, when the economy shed 72,000 jobs. Last month, then, was easily the best month since the start of the recession.

Of course, losing any jobs is bad news, and it’s hard to smile too much with 23 consecutive months in which the economy has lost jobs. To get back to a healthy employment landscape, the economy is going to have to not just climb back above 0, but also start creating about 140,000 jobs per month. We’re quite a ways from that level.

But today’s news is nevertheless the most encouraging we’ve seen in a long time. The unemployment rate has dropped, and the monthly report far exceeded expectations.

Once more, here’s my homemade chart, showing job losses by month, starting in January 2008, a month after the recession began.


Notice how small that bar is on the far-right side of the chart? Does it seem hard to see? That’s a good thing.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.