January's jobs number crushed even the most optimistic estimates this morning, adding nearly a quarter-million jobs for the month and pushing the unemployment rate down to 8.3% -- the lowest in three years.

The news was good all around.

  • The rate of underemployment, or those who would like a job but have given up looking and those working part time who want more work, fell to 15.1%, down from 17.3% a year ago.
  • November's and December's jobs numbers were revised higher, adding 60,000 more new jobs than originally reported.
  • Manufacturing added 50,000 jobs, the most since 1998. The average manufacturing worker is now working more hours than they have since 1997.
  • The employment-population ratio rose.
  • The household survey, an alternative measure of job creation that asks households instead of businesses how their job situation has changed, showed the highest monthly jobs gain in years.
  • Average earnings among all jobs grew 0.2%.

This chart doesn't even include January's improvement, but this, folks, is what a recovery starts to look like:

anImage

Source: Federal Reserve.

Still, keep these numbers in context. If job creation continued at this pace, it would still be several more years before we're back to pre-recession levels. In the meantime, millions have been out of work for more than a year and will struggle to get reintegrated into the labor market even when demand returns.

But we're moving in the right direction, and we're doing it faster than we have in years. That's something to celebrate, I think. How about you?

At the time this article was published Fool contributor Morgan Housel doesn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article. Follow him on Twitter @TMFHousel. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

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