Economy added jobs in October, but pace still slow; unemployment rate drops slightly

We need to add at least 100,000 jobs per month to the nation’s economy to keep pace with population growth, so it’s hard to get too excited about the data for October. From the Bureau of Labor Statistics:

Nonfarm payroll employment continued to trend up in October (+80,000),
and the unemployment rate was little changed at 9.0 percent, the U.S.
Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. Employment in the private
sector rose, with modest job growth continuing in professional and
businesses services, leisure and hospitality, health care, and mining.
Government employment continued to trend down.

Most of the other employment measures that I look at were not significantly different from last month. And that’s probably good: we don’t seem to have a deteriorating employment picture, even if employment is not growing as we would like it to be. The best news in the release is the sharp decline in discouraged workers from a year ago:

Among the marginally attached, there were 967,000 discouraged workers
in October, a decrease of 252,000 from a year earlier. (The data are
not seasonally adjusted.) Discouraged workers are persons not
currently looking for work because they believe no jobs are available
for them. The remaining 1.6 million persons marginally attached to the
labor force in October had not searched for work in the 4 weeks
preceding the survey for reasons such as school attendance or family

That helped bring U-6 unemployment down to 16.2% seasonally adjusted from 16.5% in September. That’s a good bit of data, but the rate was also 16.2% in September. U-6 unemployment is the number of unemployed, “plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force, plus total employed part time for economic reasons, as a percent of the civilian labor force plus all persons marginally attached to the labor force.”

Here’s an updated graph of employment in recessions and recoveries since WWII from Calculated Risk. We still have a long long way to go to dig ourselves out of the hole.