Is the economy as bad as most Americans think? New figures tell an interesting story.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics just released employment statistics for October 2015.

37 states added jobs and unemployment rates fell in 40. That's good news, right?


Job seekers wait in line for a chance to apply for a job on a massive urban development project in Miami. Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images.

And if you're a glass-half-full type, here's something else you'll be happy to hear:

25 states have reached pre-recession unemployment rates.

It's been eight years since the recession started. 8.7 million jobs were lost before the recovery began. Now, we're halfway back to where we were before the sh*t hit the fan.

Building a new economy means transforming the world.
And that's the work of optimists.

It's a long-overdue benchmark, though perhaps we should have expected that. This was, after all, the worst recession since the Great Depression.

Click on a state to see its unemployment rate as of October 2015:

Click on a state to see the percent change in its unemployment rate since the beginning of the recession:

The Economic Policy Institute calls this a "bittersweet milestone" because it means we still have a ways to go.

It's important to note that what we've been dealing with isn't just a jobs crisis — it's a plague of inequality that needs more fundamental fixes, says William Greider:

"At some point, it will become obvious that our economy will not truly recover until American capitalism is refashioned, stripped of its self-aggrandizing excesses and made to serve the interests of society rather than the other way around."

Still, with some estimates finding that 7 in 10 Americans feel pretty crappy about the economy, reaching this halfway point is a moment worth lifting up.

President Obama shakes hands with former Republican House Majority Leader Eric Cantor after signing the JOBS Act into law. Photo by Joshua Roberts/Getty Images.

68 consecutive months of job growth — the longest streak on record — ain't nothin' to sneeze at. Plus, the Obama administration has managed to crank up the jobs machine exactly where his opponents say they want it: the private sector.

Politically, that's pretty impressive. But it's been argued that the recovery would be stronger if we put at least as much attention on the public sector. According to EPI:

"Our genuinely pressing spending problem is a decline in spending on public investments relative to our needs, which can reduce future economic growth and contribute to growing inequality."

We were in a deep hole, and we're still digging ourselves out. Steadying the labor market is a big part of that.

When we can peek over the edge, perhaps we'll finally be able to reimagine how things work. In the meanwhile, let's remember to celebrate what wins we can. Building a new economy means transforming the world. And that's the work of optimists.

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