Last month’s decline in the unemployment rate was driven by large reported employment gains, with 873,000 people indicating that they got a job in September. This is an exceptionally large one-month gain in reported employment, and therefore we should interpret it carefully. Higher employment is consistent with data from the establishment survey, however, and while the pace of reported employment in the household survey will likely be slower in the months to come, it is clear that employment is rising.
There are other indications that more people are finding employment: The share of those out of work who voluntarily quit their jobs instead of being laid off rose to 7.9 percent, and the number of discouraged workers fell from just more than a million a year ago to 802,000. However, 582,000 people newly indicated that they were working part time because of slack work or business conditions, which means that not all of those finding work are finding the kind of work that they would like to have.
Both men and women reported increased employment, with 67.5 percent of adult men (ages 20 and over) reporting having a job in September — up from 67.0 percent a year ago — and 55.1 percent of adult women reporting having a job — up from 55.0 percent a year ago. Employment grew most for workers with some college or more, while falling for workers with only a high school diploma.
Alongside hiring, wages grew by 7 cents in September for an annualized quarterly rate of growth of 1.6 percent. However, this means that workers are not seeing real earnings gains, since the rate of inflation over the past year — as measured by the Consumer Price Index for all urban consumers — rose by 1.8 percent.
These data show that in the wake of a massive recession caused by a financial crisis like the one we have lived through in recent years, the best antidote to high unemployment is deficit spending until the unemployment rate comes down.
Heather Boushey is senior economist at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
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