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Will 2015 Be Any Better? Ten Numbers to Watch

Will 2015 Be Any Better? Ten Numbers to Watch
Photographer: Getty Images

Enough with the debate over whether 2014 was a bad year (Islamic State, Ebola, Crimea) or a good year (homicide rates are falling). Time to take a look at the shiny new coin in the palms of our hands: 2015. How will it measure up? Here are 10 numbers to watch:

U.S. unemployment rate in November
The obvious reason to care about this number in 2015? It tells us what share of the workforce can’t find jobs. The less obvious reason? It’s a key metric for the Federal Reserve, which will be deciding when to start raising interest rates. According to materials released on Dec. 17, 5 percent to 5.8 percent is the range of estimates [PDF] for the “longer run” level of unemployment by various members of the rate-setting Federal Open Market Committee. In other words, at the current jobless rate of 5.8 percent, at least one member of the FOMC thinks unemployment has already fallen to its long-run level—the one at which the economy is running as fast as it can without generating excessive inflation. The lower into the range that the jobless rate gets in the new year, the more FOMC members will decide it’s time to raise rates, taking away some of the economy’s fuel.