Another healthy drop in unemployment claims reported last week is the latest clue that job gains might be more robust than the Labor Department's monthly reports show.
Some economists say jobless claims and other recent data show that employers likely added 200,000 to 300,000 jobs a month this year, rather than the 128,000 average reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
The reason for the possible disparity: The government tends to underestimate both job gains in a recovery and job losses in a recession, the economists say. That helps explain why the nation's unemployment rate has fallen more sharply than the modest payroll increases suggest. The jobless rate was 8.9% last month, down from 9.8% in November.