U.S. Adds Jobs For First Time Since May but Unemployment Hangs Steady at 9.6%

Nonfarm payroll employment increased by 151,000 in the month of October but the unemployment rate remained unchanged at 9.6%, according to a report published today by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. October marked the first month with employment increases since May (when the federal government hired approximately 400,000 workers to help with the Census), but, as the New York Times explains, "The jobless rate has not fallen substantially this year largely because job growth has been barely fast enough to absorb new entrants to the labor force."

The Brookings Institution reports that even if the U.S. economy were to add 208,000 jobs a month--the average monthly rate during the best year of job creation in the 2000s--it would take 142 months, or almost 12 years, to close the job gap (defined by the Brookings Institution as "the number of jobs the economy needs to add in order to return to pre-recession employment levels while absorbing the 125,000 people who enter the labor force each month").
Even the most optimistic predictions suggest that it will take years to close the gap, and the Brookings Institution found particularly troubling "the historic rise in the long-term unemployed." If Congress does not extend unemployment benefits as it did in 2008 then "2 million people, or about one-third of the long-term unemployed, will lose their benefits in December."

The gains in October represented growth in the private sector, as private companies added 159,000 jobs, and cuts in the public sector, as governments cut a total of 8,000 jobs. Education and health services added the highest number of jobs in October among private industries, checking in at 53,000, and the average private sector workweek expanded one-tenth of an hour to 34.3 hours, suggesting a turn to more full-time employment.

President Obama sought to keep the positive news in perspective, saying: “The fact is, an encouraging jobs report doesn’t make a difference if you’re still one of the millions of people who are looking for work.”
SSDAN Office

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