A week of frights ended with mortgages improved Friday, slightly under 5.75 percent for the lowest-fee packages.

The worst scare each month is the wait for the first-Friday-of-the-month payroll data. This month we need not have bothered: December payrolls gained only 157,000 jobs, plus a 25,000-job upward revision for November, still far short of the sustained 250,000-300,000 necessary to work down the unemployment rate and provide opportunity for the under-employed.

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