WASHINGTON -- America's unemployment rate fell unexpectedly to 9.7 percent in January, the lowest it's been since August.
However, with millions of people still out of work, jobs are still Americans' number one concern.
Jobs, Jobs, Jobs
From economists to investors to workers, everyone agrees the big need for the U.S. is jobs. Many are hoping the White House and Congress are taking that message seriously.
"We need jobs, no matter what," New York Stock Exchange trader David Henderson said. "I think the administration is finally aware of it."
Analysts who were once hopeful about falling unemployment this year, now predict it will take at least three to four years for the job market to return to normal.
"The biggest fear right now is kind of two things," trader Jonathan Corpina said. "One is unemployment and two is how long is this recovery going to take."
Feeling the political heat just months ahead of the midterm elections, Democrats and Republicans are talking job creation full time.
"A laser-like focus on jobs because that is what the American people want and need," Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said.
President Obama is expected to takes his jobs plan, which includes using TARP money to lend to small businesses, to Maryland Friday as the administration pushes its new number one goal.
"Getting this economy back on its feet, getting people back to work and restoring their confidence," Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said.
Another worry spooking investors is trouble brewing overseas. European markets have slumped amidst fears that countries like Greece and Spain will slip into financial crisis and the U.S. will feel the aftershock.
Meanwhile in the U.S., as Senate Democrats begin pushing the president's economic proposals, Republicans remain skeptical.
"It's about putting people back to work," Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said.
However, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said, "If it's going to add another $100 billion to the deficit, then that's not something I can support."
Washington's own growing debt is another concern as the House voted to confirm an increase in the federal debt ceiling by $1.9 trillion, taking the total national debt to $14.3 trillion.
On Monday, the Senate is expected to get to work on legislation that would give companies tax breaks for hiring new workers.
Meanwhile, some economists are signaling Congress must be decisive this year since the lingering health care debate and scheduled expiration of Bush administration tax cuts are creating an added layer of uncertainty for employers.