The Upside of Downsizing

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WASHINGTON: Soon-to-be-jettisoned workers at Boeing and Johnson & Johnson may take some comfort from this: The rest of the country is hiring. The U.S. unemployment rate fell to a near-record low of 4.4 percent in November, goosing the Dow Friday morning and blindsiding all those economists -- including Alan Greenspan -- who feared that the U.S. economy couldn't weather the current global storm.

"It really looks like nothing is able to stop this economic locomotive," says TIME senior economics reporter Bernard Baumohl. "Greenspan cut rates three times to keep the economy moving, and now it's almost moving too fast." Almost. Thankfully for Greenspan, manufacturers' productivity remains robust as well, which should keep rising wages from waking the sleeping dog of inflation. Is the Asian slowdown ever going to visit the U.S. in earnest? Some analysts still fear a slowdown in the spring. But for now, it's so far, so good.