The good news is that the latest government figures show the American economy created 463,000 new jobs in November - nearly twice the increase that had been expected.

The bad news is that the economy can't sustain such rapid growth for long without igniting inflation.That means the Federal Reserve Board may soon have to demonstrate whether it is willing to match its tough talk about controlling inflation with tough action - namely, higher interest rates.

The ball is in the FRB's court because neither President-elect Bush or Congress has expressed any concern about inflation. The FRB, by contrast, believes that inflation is a greater danger than recession.

Though the danger may seem minor at this point, the Fed's concern is well taken. Just look at how the national economy is performing. Factories are running at near full capacity, their highest pace since 1979. Unemployment remains near 14-year lows, producing widespread labor shortages. Oil prices recently began to rise. Meanwhile, housing construction and consumer spending are rebounding. These forces all expert inflationary pressures.

The time to stop inflation is before it takes off. Remember how prices skyrocketed in the 1970's - and how it took the 1981-82 recession to curb them? Let's try now to avoid a repetition of that debacle.