There's reason for more cautious optimism on the national economic front. The U.S. unemployment rate ticked lower in December as non-farm payrolls rose by 200,000, according to the U.S. Labor Department. Private employers added 212,000 jobs as government payrolls shrank by 12,000.
December's unemployment rate of 8.5 percent is the lowest level since February 2009. Economists had guessed that the jobless rate would probably hover around 8.7 percent.
All told, the U.S. economy added 1.6 million jobs in 2011, brining non-farm payrolls to 131.9 million. That's still more than 6 million less than January 2008, right before the recession began.
Idaho's current unemployment rate is also at 8.5 percent.