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Jobs Report Has Surprising Results



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. The jobless rate fell sharply to 7.8 percent in September, which happens to be exactly where it was when President Obama took office. That's according to the U.S. Labor Department's latest monthly jobs report. But even though the unemployment rate dropped, the Labor Department's payroll survey reveals that businesses did not significantly hire new people. NPR's Yuki Noguchi has this report on how experts are interpreting the numbers.

YUKI NOGUCHI, BYLINE: The 7.8 percent unemployment number caught almost everyone off guard, including Steve Oliner.

When where you expecting to see numbers below 8?

STEVE OLINER: Late next year.


NOGUCHI: Oliner is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former advisor to the Federal Reserve. He noted the big difference between the two surveys the Labor Department puts out: the payroll survey showed a modest increase of 114,000 jobs. But the separate household survey showed a giant jump of nearly 900,000 more people who worked in September.

OLINER: That household survey is very, very volatile, month to month.

NOGUCHI: Christine Owens is executive director of the National Employment Law Project, an advocacy group for workers. She says she sees a shift in attitude among some job seekers.

CHRISTINE OWENS NATIONAL EMPLOYMENT LAW PROJECT: I don't think that there is quite the same apprehension about getting a new job.

NOGUCHI: But, Owens says many of the new jobs were part-time, so many people still remain underemployed.

PROJECT: It is definitely something that we need to pay attention to. It's not enough to create additional jobs, we have to focus on the quality of jobs.

NOGUCHI: The report contained some good news on that score, also. Government jobs, which pay middle-income wages, increased for the third straight month, following more than three years of declines.

Yuki Noguchi, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Yuki Noguchi
Yuki Noguchi is a correspondent on the Science Desk based out of NPR's headquarters in Washington, D.C. She started covering consumer health in the midst of the pandemic, reporting on everything from vaccination and racial inequities in access to health, to cancer care, obesity and mental health.