The U.S. economy got some very good and surprising news this morning: only 11,000 jobs were lost in November, a number much, much smaller than expected and a sign that the job market might have finally turned a corner.
More people are still unemployed than a month ago but the monthly losses were the smallest since December 2007 and Wall Street reacted favorably, with all major indexes shooting up in pre-market trading.
The unemployment rate also fell to 10 percent in November from 10.2 percent in October, thanks to government revisions to prior months' job losses. Economists had expected a loss of 125,000 jobs last month.
The Treasury Department's chief economist, Alan Krueger, said the news was "welcome" but cautioned that unemployment still remains "unacceptably high."
"We shouldn't put too much weight in one month's data," Krueger said at a briefing following the release of the November numbers. "Recoveries don't move in straight lines, although the overall trend continues to be improvements in the job market."
Investors, however, were quick to wonder if the showing is just a fluke month and how the nation can continue to improve the economy.
The White House yesterday sponsored a "Jobs and Economic Growth Forum" that, at minimum, sparked an important dialogue about finding some way to stem job losses that have caused the worst unemployment rate in nearly 30 years.
Now comes the hard part -- turning ideas into action.
So where to start?
As President Obama and his gathering of economists and business leaders brainstormed in Washington, D.C., ABCNews.com interviewed a wide range of economic policy experts, academics, lawmakers, investors and other public figures to get some perspective on the kinds of meaningful job creation steps that can, and should, be taken immediately:
At least until unemployment drops below 6 percent, says House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, R-Va., passing an extension to about-to-expire Bush era tax breaks will help small business owners keep more of their profits, and represents a "straightforward, common-sense solution that the president can put into place now."
With the financial system seemingly stabilizing and a sizable chunk of TARP funds as yet unused, a number of politicians are angling to tap into that money for projects beyond the scope of shoring up bank balance sheets. Using TARP money – there is nearly $210 billion as yet uncommitted and Bank of America has said it intends to pay back $45 billion more – some say, for infrastructural improvements (road and bridge repairs). House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., suggested today a national high-speed rail project should be put on the front burner.
Meanwhile, a number of decaying cities could use more direct federal funding for initiatives such as environmental cleanup projects or wholesale transformations of former industrial sites. One such project, in Buffalo, N.Y., recently created 400 or so new jobs. "The EPA has a $250,000 cap on funding for individual cleanup projects," explained Byron Brown, mayor of Buffalo, and who is among a handful of local mayors and civic leaders set to host follow-up job summits next week. "One thing that can easily be done right now is to remove the cap or raise it significantly." Brown advocates funneling TARP money to agencies such as the EPA, as well as directly to cities such as Buffalo to be used for things like urban redevelopment and historic preservation projects.