8.6% Unemployment Rate: Great! (Or Not)

8.6 percent unemployment is nothing to crow about, but it certainly looks better than October’s 9.0 percent. November’s unemployment rate fell from October’s level by 0.4 percentage point to 8.6 percent, and employment rose by 120,000 jobs.

Civilian Unemployment Rate

November 2011 Unemployment Rate

See The Employment Situation for a live version of this chart.

In addition to the 120,000 jobs created in November, job estimates for September and October were both raised. The change in employment for September was revised from 158,000 to 210,000, and the change for October was revised from 80,000 to 100,000.

That’s the good news. Here’s the bad: The size of the total labor pool is falling.

According to the Household Survey, 13,303 million people were unemployed in November 2011, compared to 13,897 million unemployed in October, that’s a decrease of 594,000. But the labor pool fell to 153,883 million in November from 154,198 million in October.

November unemployment rate = 13,303 / 153,883 = 8.6%
October     unemployment rate = 13,897 / 154,198 = 9.0%

This month, the participation rate – that’s the percentage of the population that’s employed – shrunk from 64.2 percent to 64 percent.

Of course, there’s more bad news. 120,000 jobs isn’t enough. The U.S. economy needs to grow over 300,000 new jobs each month just to match the country’s population growth.

Job growth occured in retail, leisure and hospitality, professional and business services, and healthcare. Government employment is decreasing.


You can find the full report here: The Employment Situation Report. A PDF version of the Employment Situation Report is also available (I think it’s easier to read, but your mileage may vary).

You can find a chart showing unemployment rates over the past 60 years on this site’s Employment Situation Overview.

If you need a refresher for interpreting the report’s details, check out my book, Economic Indicators For Dummies. It shows how to put economic indicators to use right away for your investment and business planning.

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