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Unemployment Drops to 9 Percent, but Jobless Frustrations Continue

Help Wanted
Khalifah Varnado reads a help wanted post card during the Arizona Workforce Connection Career Expo at the Arizona State Fair Grounds in Phoenix, Ariz. Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images.

As expected, unemployment in the U.S. was little changed in October, with the official government figure inching down to 9.0 percent from 9.1 percent in September. Our own U-7, which as you’ll recall is a broader view of unemployment in the country than the government’s official figure, is down: we reckon 18.18 percent of Americans are out of work, down from last months’ 18.41 percent.

Paul Solman U7 unemployment October 2011

And while government jobs continued to disappear (24,000 lost in October), the private sector was buoyed: 80,000 new jobs created, plus upward revisions of the jobs added figure in August and September. That puts new job growth for the year over 1.2 million.

Still, that’s quite a chunk of Americans who say they want a job but can’t find one.

“While job growth is certainly better than job losses, a gain of 80,000 jobs is hardly worth celebrating,” Catherine Rampell wrote in the New York Times Friday morning. “That was just about enough to keep up with population growth, so it did not significantly reduce the backlog of 14 million unemployed workers.”

Making Sense

There’s also some relief perhaps for the chronically unemployed. The ranks of the long-term jobless (which the government defines at unemployed 27 weeks or more) declined by over a quarter million last month. This doesn’t, however, count people who haven’t looked for a job in the last four weeks.

Discouraging job growth, and it seems we’re in it for the long haul. And Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said Wednesday that growth over the next two years is expected to be “frustratingly slow.”

This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions _Follow Paul on Twitter._

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