Getting Down to Business on Getting Back to Work

Remember today everyone. Today’s the day that the unemployment rate fell below 8.0% in the United States. At 7.8%, this is the lowest unemployment rate since January of 2009. Don’t get me wrong, the economy has still got a long way to go, but you’ve got to admit that it feels good to see that number tick down. And the best part is…the unemployment percentage dropped not because people were giving up the search and dropping out, but because they were getting hired.

Here’s what it looked like according to the data release from the U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics (you can read their full report here). There was in increase in total nonfarm payroll employment during September of 114,000, while the unemployment rate notched down from 8.1% to 7.8%. This is based on the so-called Household Survey, where the BLS calls around to about 60,000 households every month to find out if people have been working, have been looking for work, or aren’t working.

What that report showed this month was that the number of unemployed persons dropped by 456,000 to 12.1 million and the number of employed jumped by a whopping 873,000.  A caveat to note about the household survey is that is comes from a smaller sample (that 60,000 number) than the establishment survey, so monthly estimates are much noisier. That said, the 12-month moving average of employment growth within the household survey is strong – about 240,000 on average compared to 150,000 average job growth from the establishment survey.

Better employment growth also means that the employment-to-population ratio – the percent of the overall U.S. population that is gainfully employed moved up by 0.4% to 58.7%. To give you an idea of where we have to go from here, the employment-to-population ratio back in 2008 was around 66%. Still, it’s heartening to see that the labor force participation rate moving up.

I suppose the next thing to tackle would be the U-6 unemployment figure, which takes into account those citizens who are either underemployed or have given up the job search. Once we get to a place where each worker can contribute to their maximum potential, this recovery should really start to pick up.