This morning’s jobs report was unexpectedly positive. Unemployment fell 0.3 points to 7.8 percent, and the economy gained 114,000 jobs in September - and revisions added another 86,000 jobs to the July and August numbers.

How does that compare to past months? Let’s find out:

Unemployment and Payroll Numbers

Unemployment took the biggest fall in months, reaching below 8 percent for the first time since January 2009:


Labor force participation

That said, the unemployment rate is a function of two things: the number of people employed, and the number of people in the labor force. But the proportion of people in the labor force actually went up, suggesting the fall in the unemployment rate reflects a real improvement, rather than people stopping their work search:

Public and private

Public employment stopped falling for the first time since February. Whereas previous July and August numbers saw it falling, revised numbers suggest that 73,000 public jobs were added in the past three months:

Alternative Unemployment Measures

As I explained last month, the BLS releases six unemployment measures. There’s U3, the number that shows up in all the news article, which counts people who don’t have jobs, but have looked for one in the past four weeks, but U1, U2, U4, U5 and U6 exist as well.  U1 and U2 are usually lower than U3, and measure the percentage of people who have been unemployed for 15 weeks or longer and the percentage who have lost jobs or done temporary work in the period in question, respectively.

U4, U5 and U6 are usually higher than U3. Each of these categories includes everyone in all the lower categories: all people in U3 are in U4, all people in U4 are in U5, and all people in U5 are in U6. U4 adds people who have stopped looking for work because they’ve concluded none is available. U5 adds people who would like to work but for whatever reason have not looked for work recently. U6 adds the underemployed, or part-time workers who want to be working full-time but cannot for whatever reason.

The six measures are pretty well coordinated, and all but U6 ticked down in September, suggesting again that the drop reflects real improvement:


Different sectors were hit to varying degrees by the downturn. Construction took the heaviest hit while health and education were barely hurt at all. This month continued those patterns for the most part:


The rate of wage growth fell dramatically due to the recession, and remains low, but ticked up last month: