Monthly Unemployment Rate Tops 10 Percent
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Just a day ago, economists saw some hope that the latest unemployment figure would not jump very much. This morning we know better. The government says the unemployment rate for October hit 10.2 percent. That's the first time it's gone over 10 percent since the recession of the early 1980s.
However, that's just one of several numbers that our economics correspondent John Ydstie is working through this morning. John, good morning.
JOHN YDSTIE: Hi, Steve.
INSKEEP: What's one of the other numbers?
YDSTIE: Well, the other number is the payroll cuts, the number of jobs business - businesses cut. That was 190,000 in October, according to the government. That's much improved from September, when it was - when businesses cut 263,000 jobs, but still below expectations. Most economists had thought that number would be a bit lower. The thing to remember here is that there are two surveys that this monthly report is based on. One is a survey of households, and the unemployment rate is figured from that survey. The other is a survey of businesses, and that's what's used to come up with the number of job cuts.
INSKEEP: Hundreds of thousands of losses�
INSKEEP: �you just mentioned.
YDSTIE: Exactly. Usually the payroll figure is viewed as the most important, a more accurate reflection of conditions. But coming out of a recession, I'm told the household survey may be a better refection of economic conditions. If that's the case, it suggests the economy is very weak. After all, as you said, this is the highest unemployment rate since April of 1983, when the U.S. was experiencing a very deep recession.
INSKEEP: I guess what makes this a bit of a mixed report, you say the number of jobs, net jobs lost in October, is less than the month before, which means that if we are, figuratively speaking, tumbling down a hill, we didn't tumble quite so far down the hill in October as we did the month before.
YDSTIE: Right. The number - the number of job losses is declining, or - the number of job losses is getting smaller. And that's a good sign. But this jump in the unemployment rate is a serious indication that the economy is maybe weaker than we thought it was.
INSKEEP: And what sectors had a lot of job losses last month?
YDSTIE: Well, the big losses came in construction, which has been hurt very severely in this recession. It's been right in the middle of this recession. Also, big drops in manufacturing and in retail. And the manufacturing numbers have been surprising because a separate survey of manufacturers recently suggested that they were beginning to hire again, but we're not seeing that in this employment survey(ph).
INSKEEP: John Ydstie, let's look at another number that we learned a little bit more about today, and that is the number of hours people are working when they do have jobs.
YDSTIE: Yeah. Again, a bit disappointing. And this is a number that economists look at to see if employers are about to hire. The number of hours worked per week remained at 33 hours for an average worker, same as in September. And if the demand in the economy were improving, we would expect to see that number going up as employers try to get more from their current workers before hiring new ones. But apparently that did not happen in October.
INSKEEP: What about the number of people who are unemploy - underemployed - I mean they've got some kind of job but they're underemployed, or people who have just been discouraged from looking for work at all?
YDSTIE: Well, those two groups of people - part-time workers who want to work full-time, and the people who are discouraged and aren't looking, the first group, part-time workers who want more work remain at about 9.3 million workers in October, same as in September, no change there.
The number of discouraged workers rose by more than 700,000, and when you add up all the folks into the mix, the unemployment rate - or the underemployment rate actually gets up into the mid-teens, so that's a discouraging picture too.
INSKEEP: Okay. John, thanks very much.
YDSTIE: You're welcome, Steve.
INSKEEP: That's NPR's economics correspondent John Ydstie in our studios this morning. And again, the official unemployment rate now 10.2 percent.
It's NPR News.
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