MAKING SENSE -- October 5, 2012 at 10:25 AM ET
Unemployment Ticks Down to 7.8%, U-7 Down to 16.87%
Construction jobs grew by 5,000 in August, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Photo by Sam Hodgson/Bloomberg via Getty Images.
A rare banner day on the jobs front, at least at first glance. The official unemployment rate -- U-3 -- dropped below 8 percent to 7.8 and even our all-inclusive U-7 is down 0.08 percent -- to 16.87 percent. The most impressive numbers are in job creation as reported by the monthly survey of "establishments." While the 114,000 new jobs added in September is a modest figure, the upward revisions for July and August are substantial: 86,000 more jobs, or a bump of better than 30 percent. It's a good reminder not to take any given month's numbers too seriously. But it's a reminder in the right direction.
You can read the Bureau of Labor Statistics press release for yourself for more detail, but though I'm interviewing David Wessel this morning about his book on the budget -- "Red Ink" -- and therefore am pressed for time, I do want to add a note of caution about today's numbers. If the statistical sampling is trustworthy, 873,000 more Americans said they were employed in September than the month before. Great. But 600,000 of those seem to be part-timers, looking for full-time work. So today's story may be a surge in part-time work and remember: if you only worked one hour in the past week, you're counted as officially employed.
On the other hand, another several hundred thousand people seem to have now rejoined the workforce and reported full-time employment. That would appear to be unambiguously good news.
As usual, look for a second post early this afternoon. But please don't blame us if events or technology make that impossible. Meanwhile, let it be known that this entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions.