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‘U.S. economy is not faltering’

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Job market weakness in today's report has staggered the markets, and knocked long-term rates down to their post-November lows, 4.08 percent on the 10-year T-note, and 30-year, low-fee mortgages sliding below 5.75 percent. December payrolls gained 1,000 jobs. Zilch, zip, nada. And, the 100,000 average monthly gain last October and November was revised down by a quarter. The impact of the news on the bond market reminds me of the scientist, exhilarated by the first Spirit images from Mars, who said this week, "I suppose it could have been better if an elephant had walked by the camera..." The elephant marched on: the unemployment rate "improved" to 5.7 percent, but only because 309,000 people left the workforce in December. Quibblers point out that the payroll series is a large-business survey, and employment is really OK, just under the radar at small businesses and in new self-employment. To the limited degree that this reach for optimism is correct, it indicates a continuing dow...