The White House on Friday acknowledged December's jobs report was a "setback," but stressed the numbers were still consistent with the labor market's gradual "stabilization" over the past few months.

Unemployment remained at 10 percent for the second consecutive month, the Labor Department announced this morning. However, the economy shed 85,000 jobs in December -- a far cry from the 4,000 jobs the economy added in the month prior, Labor officials noted in their report.


Those numbers remain "unacceptably high," said Christina Romer, chairwoman of the White House's Council of Economic Advisers, in a blog post this morning. All told, the data underscore "the need for responsible actions to jumpstart private-sector job creation," she said.

But Romer stressed to readers that December's jobs report only represents a "slight setback" from November's gains. She described Friday's data as part of an evident, long-term trend of positive changes in the country's labor market.

Explained Romer:

"Payroll employment declined 85,000 in December.  To put this number in perspective, employment declined 139,000 in September and 127,000 in October.  So, in a broad sense the trend toward moderating job loss is continuing.  This trend is particularly obvious in the quarterly pattern:  average monthly job loss was 691,000 in the first quarter of 2009, 428,000 in the second quarter, 199,000 in the third quarter, and 69,000 in the fourth quarter."

Nevertheless, Friday's numbers are sure to frustrate the White House, which initially hoped the economy would expand as 2009 drew to a close. Some advisers seemed hopeful that the economy would actually add jobs this month, or that the unemployment rate might similarly improve, dropping below double digits.

However, December proved less robust than some analysts previously expected, prompting Romer this morning to categorize December's jobs report as just one of many indicators of the labor market's strength.

"As the President has said for a year, the road to recovery will not be a straight line," she said. "Therefore, it is important not to read too much into any one monthly report, positive or negative.  It is essential that we continue our efforts to move in the right direction and replace job losses with robust job gains."