Unemployment Rises to 7.9%; Was 7.6% in January 2009

The unemployment rate rose to 7.9% in October, with 171,000 jobs added, according to the Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics today. 

Economists had predicted unemployment would rise to 7.9%, with 121,000 jobs added, below average for the year. The October report is the last before the election next week.

Expectations had been mixed, partly because of a modest decline in first-time jobless claims over the month, and partly because ADP, which measures payrolls, had reported an increase of 158,000 private sector jobs over the past month--all while revising September jobs numbers dramatically downward due to a new methodology.

Strikingly, black unemployment rose sharply from 13.4% in September to 14.3% last month. In January 2009, black unemployment had been 12.6%.

Employment figures have been the subject of great controversy over the past month, starting with a surprise decrease in the unemployment rate in the September jobs report, and continuing with a dramatic anomaly in the jobless claims figures that was caused when the state of California failed to report all of its claims on time.

171,000 is slightly more than the monthly average for 2011 of 146,000, but is still historically low and indicates a sluggish recovery. There were also upward revisions to job figures from September and August.

The jobless rate of 7.9% is higher than the rate of 7.6% when President Barack Obama took office in 2009.




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